News Media Argue to Open Court Records in Aurora, Co., Shooting Case


More than 20 news organizations are asking Chief District Judge William Sylvester to reconsider his decision to seal court documents in the case against James Holmes, accused of killing 12 and wounding 58 people at an Aurora, Co., movie theater last month, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Sylvester entered a one-paragraph order July 20 sealing all documents in the case, including the “orders, search warrants, affidavits and case file.”

The public has a right to observe proceedings in open court and inspect judicial records, argues Steven Zansberg, who represents the news organizations. “To work, effectively, it is important that the society's criminal process satisfy the appearance of justice, and the appearance of justice can best be provided by allowing people to observe it,” the media’s motion said. Both the prosecution and the defense argued that unsealing the court documents would interfere with the ongoing investigation. “The crimes alleged in this case involve numerous victims and hundreds of potential witnesses, many of whom may still require contact by law enforcement, the prosecution, and/or defense,” the prosecution said. “Further unsealing of any and all court documents related to this matter would hinder the ability for a full investigation. In addition, the People share the concern voiced by the defense that they need the opportunity to review discovery prior to any unsealing of this case.” Under a 2005 Colorado Supreme Court judicial directive, all court files are presumed open to the public except for certain categories such as expunged or sealed cases.

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