Update: Aurora theater shooting witness-victims won't be barred from watching trial
Update: The Colorado Supreme Court has declined to hear the petitions filed on Monday by James Holmes's attorneys. Read the high court's (brief) orders at the end of this post.
Andy Cross/Denver Post James Holmes in court in June 2013.
Original post: Attorneys for Aurora theater shooting gunman James Holmes have filed two petitions with the Colorado Supreme Court. One seeks to overturn an order that Holmes undergo a second sanity evaluation. That petition has been filed under seal.
Another asks the high court to reverse a ruling that victims who are also witnesses can watch the trial. In that petition, which is not sealed, Holmes's attorneys argue that allowing the victims to hear testimony will re-traumatize them and influence the way they testify.
Due to the nature of the crime, there are many victims in the case. Holmes is accused of murdering twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
In August 2013, Judge Carlos Samour ruled that anyone who was present in Century 16's Theaters 8 and 9 when the shooting occurred will be allowed to watch the trial, regardless of if they're one of the 82 named victims in the case or whether they'll be called as a witness to testify. In other words, they will not be sequestered.
Holmes's attorneys disagree with Samour's ruling. In a petition filed on Monday (and on view below), they asked the Colorado Supreme Court to review his decision.
Andy Cross/Denver Post Judge Carlos Samour in court in June 2013.
"There are two primary reasons why exempting victim-witnesses from the sequestration order threatens Mr. Holmes's right to a fair trial," Holmes's attorneys wrote. "The first is the risk that these victim-witnesses will improperly influence jurors and sway their decision regarding conviction and punishment. The second is the risk that attending the trial will adversely affect the testimony of these victim-witnesses."
Holmes's attorneys argue that seeing victims in the courtroom will prejudge the jurors against their client. "Because of the sheer magnitude of the tragedy that has occurred in this exceptional case," they wrote, "the presence of the sheer number of victim-witnesses who will be allowed into the courtroom...is likely to have a significant impact on the jury."
They're also concerned about emotional outbursts from victims, such as the time in January 2011 that the father of Rebecca Wingo, who died in the shooting, loudly said, "Rot in hell, Holmes!" in court shortly after a hearing was adjourned.
"Viewing the anger and sadness of the victims and their family members toward Mr. Holmes day after day for months will make the jury less able to presume Mr. Holmes innocent," they wrote, "or conduct their deliberations with fairness and impartiality."
Continue for more on Holmes's petition to the state Supreme Court.