James Holmes case: Leak fears inspire order denying access to evidence for victims' lawsuits
Update: Judge William Sylvester, the jurist overseeing the Aurora theater shooting case against accused murderer James Holmes, has denied a request for access to evidence from three victims suing Cinemark, owner of the Century 16, where twelve people died and 58 were injured during the July 20 attack. An implied reason why not: fear that key information might be leaked.
As we've reported, at least three suits have been filed on behalf of victims accusing Cinemark in negligence -- the latest under the auspices of attorney Marc Bern, whose firm won a big settlement on behalf of 9/11 first responders. Sylvester's just-issued order addresses two other complaints -- one filed jointly by Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, the other by Joshua Nowlan, each of whom sustained injuries in the attack. But they all make similar arguments, maintaining that Cinemark should have had alarms on auditorium exit doors that would have prevented suspect Holmes from blocking them open in order to arm himself, and that the theater should have had security personnel on hand due to past violent incidents there.
Brandon Axelrod, left, speaks with reporters in the days after the Aurora theater shooting.
Note that although the Traynom-Axelrod and Nowlan suits originally cited "at least one shooting, involving gang members" at the theater, that reference has been amended -- something Cinemark cites in a motion to dismiss the complaints.
Earlier this month, Holmes's legal team objected to the release of information to the victims suing Cinemark. In a document seen in full below, they argued that those suing "have not asserted a legally cognizable interest in Mr. Holmes's criminal case. Rather, they are seeking access to documents and evidence, some of which is presently suppressed in the court file and some of which is not in the Court's possession, to aid them in pursuing their civil case against Cinemark USA, Inc. The law does not authorize them to intervene in Mr. Holmes's criminal case to engage in this pursuit."
The attorneys attempt to bolster this claim via citations from previous cases -- but they also offer another argument:
Finally, even if this Court were to entertain the victims' request to intervene for the purpose of obtaining documents and evidence for use in their civil case, Mr. Holmes objects. Because of the sensitive nature of the information involved and the intense public scrutiny this case has received, there is a high likelihood that the release of this information at this early stage in the proceedings would jeopardize his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury, as protected by the Colorado and federal constitutions.In the end, Sylvester gave the defense lawyers the denial they requested. But his rationale was a bit different than theirs.
Continue to learn more about Judge William Sylvester's latest ruling and to see newly released documents.