James Holmes's attorneys say prosecutors are discouraging victims from talking to them
James Holmes's attorneys are accusing state prosecutors of discouraging Aurora theater shooting victims from talking to them, according to a motion filed this week (and on view below). They argue that prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire sent an e-mail to victims with the message that efforts by Holmes's attorneys to contact them have been in order "to manipulate, trick and lie" to them -- and that Holmes's defense team isn't to be trusted.
Andy Cross/Denver Post
The e-mail warns victims that they may be contacted by a woman whose "goal is to try and find Victims who will help the Defendant" -- a statement Holmes's attorneys say is untrue.
"By conveying this unmistakable message and wrongly disparaging the defense to victim-witnesses in this case, the prosecution has improperly impeded and interfered with a number of Mr. Holmes's constitutional rights," defense attorneys wrote.
They argue that the e-mail (on view below) mischaracterizes the job of Tammy Krause, a woman hired by the defense to act as a victim liaison. Krause's role is to give victims an opportunity to voice their concerns to the defense team in an effort to make the relationship between the two less adversarial, according to an affidavit written by Krause (also on view below). Thus far, she says she has offered victims an opportunity to meet with Holmes's defense attorneys to ask questions about the case and Holmes himself, as well as sent them letters introducing herself and giving updates about the case.
A defense victim liaison, Krause says in her affidavit, "does not act as an advocate on behalf of the defendant" or help strategize ways to win the case.
But that's not the way Teesch-Maguire described Krause's job in her e-mail. Rather, she said Krause's role is "to find Victims who will try to persuade the prosecution and/or persuade a potential jury to have sympathy for the Defendant -- and to help the Defendant win the case." She emphasized that Krause is Holmes's advocate, not theirs.
Andy Cross/Denver Post James Holmes and defense attorney Daniel King in court in June 2013.
Teesch-Maguire also asked victims to call her to check the identity of anyone asking to speak with them about the case and included a photo of herself with the following warning: "if anyone tries to meet with you and say that they are Lisa -- hopefully they look something like this attached picture." Holmes's attorneys argue that her e-mail implies that the defense team is trying to trick victims into talking to them.
"If you want to help the Defendant -- that is your choice and you are free to do so," Teesch-Maguire wrote in the e-mail to victims, "but please know that you can voice those opinions through this office, just as strongly." She also encouraged them to talk to prosecutors about their feelings on the death penalty, even if they're opposed to it.
The effect of the e-mail, Holmes's attorneys argue, is to dissuade victims from talking to the defense, which they say interferes with their investigation of the case.
"The prosecution has sabotaged the defense's credibility with the victim-witnesses in this case, and wrongly inflamed the victims and their families," the defense wrote.
The defense asked the judge to impose sanctions on the prosecutors and suggested several punishments, including taking the death penalty off the table. Holmes is accused of killing twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire in an Aurora movie theater in July 2012. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty against him.
Read the defense's motion, Krause's affidavit and Teesch-Maguire's email (both of which are attached as exhibits at the end of the motion) below.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes trial jury selection will be open to the public and media, judge rules."