Skip to content

Judge unseals records in Holmes case; hearing Wed. will determine if reporter must testify about source

Post categories

  1. Court Access
The new judge presiding over the James Holmes trial unsealed the highly coveted search and arrest warrants in the case…

The new judge presiding over the James Holmes trial unsealed the highly coveted search and arrest warrants in the case on Thursday, providing the media with new details about the high-profile Colorado movie theater shooting.

Meanwhile, a Fox News journalist under subpoena may be put on the stand as early as Wednesday to testify about her confidential sources in a story she wrote relating to the July shooting.

The records released Thursday by Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour included details about the notebook that Holmes sent his psychiatrist days before the killing spree that allegedly detailed his plan. On July 25, Winter wrote about those details and cited two unnamed law enforcement officials as her sources.

Winter’s lawyer, Dori Hanswirth, said that the release of the information about the notebook diminishes the uniqueness of the details that Winter wrote about. It is unclear whether the release of the documents will affect the judge’s decision on whether Winter must testify.

“We are gratified that the first written decision by Judge Samour in this case recognizes how important the First Amendment is to the public’s right to know critical information,” Hanswirth said in an interview.

Steve Zansberg, a Colorado attorney representing The Denver Post and other media outlets fighting for increased access, said he believes the motion to unseal, which was filed in January, may have "fallen through the cracks."

Prosecutors and defense attorneys this week opposed the motion, claiming it would identify victims and witnesses and jeopardize Holmes’ constitutional right to a fair trial. Samour agreed with the media petitioners that a wealth of information has already been made public, leaving no reason to keep the documents sealed.

Zansberg said Samour’s ruling faithfully applies the strong presumption of public access to judicial records that is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

“Access to judicial records and proceedings, particularly in cases of such profound public interest, provides for accountability of government institutions – law enforcement, prosecutors and the court – and promotes public confidence in the criminal justice system,” he said in an e-mail.

The documents released Thursday include details about a package Holmes sent his psychiatrist days before the July 20 shooting that left 12 people dead. Inside the package, investigators found burned money and a spiral notebook, according to a search warrant return.

On July 25, Winter wrote on about the notebook’s contents. However, Chief Judge William Sylvester's sweeping gag order was already in place and the notebook was already considered sealed evidence.

Zansberg said the only document in the case still sealed is the notebook itself, because it is subject to the doctor-patient privilege. He added that some documents released to the public have been almost completely redacted.