Court Orders C.U. to Deny Media Access to James Holmes' School Records

At the request of the district attorney, Arapahoe County Chief District Court Judge William Sylvester has ordered the University of Colorado not to turn over James Holmes' school records to the media. The media requested the records pursuant to Colorado open records law. The order is here.

In its motion, available here, the People disclosed some of the charges it will be filing against James Holmes. They include 12 counts of first degree murder, numerous counts of attempted murder and other charges.

Yesterday, the Judge granted a defense motion for law enforcement compliance with its order restricting extra-judicial comments: [More...]

The District Attorney’s Office and Law Enforcement Agencies involved in this case are hereby ORDERED to immediately comply with this Court’s previous order limiting pre-trial publicity, are directed to refrain from disseminating information that presents a danger to the fairness of a trial in this matter as set forth in the Court’s Pre-Trial Publicity Order (D-2), and are prohibited from disseminating any information or material that appears to possibly be privileged, or that Defendant alleges is privileged, until issues of privilege can be fully litigated.

The District Attorney’s Office is hereby ORDERED to immediately serve all Law Enforcement Agencies involved in this case with this Order as set forth in the Court’s Pre-Trial Publicity Order (D-2)

The media isn't happy with the judge's order barring cameras from Monday's court appearance. Why? The court has reserved seats for 35 media outlets and the public. If print journalists can't adequately describe a routine court appearance for the filing of charges without a camera, they should seek new employment. The cluelessness of the media is captured in this comment by the linked Washington Post reporter:

The “Dark Knight Rises” shooting rampage transfixed the country: What was the motivation? What kind of person could do this? The courtroom glimpse of Holmes offered some sense of the deranged person accused of the crime, an impression that could not have been conveyed by the most gifted wordsmith.

From a brief court appearance, the reporter has already decided Holmes is "deranged." Others viewed the same proceeding and thought he was acting. Still others thought he had been forcibly medicated. How does any of this rampant speculation assist anyone in understanding anything?

Getting a glimpse of Holmes at a routine hearing like the one set Monday for filing of charges is not going to answer any of the public's questions. It will sell papers and cause traffic spikes at media websites. It will only further baseless speculation and generate adverse publicity, making it more difficult for the court to seat a jury when and if the time comes.

If either the media or the members of the public want to view Holmes in court, they can get in their car or on a plane and stand in line at the courthouse Monday morning and view him in person. If they can't be bothered to do that, they can wait, like the rest of us, until evidence about his mental state and motivation emerges through witness testimony and admitted exhibits at a substantive hearing or trial.

Reporters from our local news stations and newspapers will be at hearing. Colorado has very competent reporters. I have no doubt they will be able to adequately express -- in words-- what transpired at the hearing. If the national news media wants the revenue from selling more newspapers and garnering more online traffic because of the case, they should shell out the bucks to send out a reporter and cover it live, rather than from a camera feed 2,000 miles away.

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    Thanks Jeralyn (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by shaharazade on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 01:41:23 AM EST
    I could not help slapping my knee at this.

     'If print journalists can't adequately describe a routine court appearance for the filing of charges without a camera, they should seek new employment.'

    I agree why make this anymore of a circus then it is. So whatever happened to court room artists who sketched the drama with great speed and artistry?

    A little extra tidbit... (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by magster on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 11:36:29 AM EST
    Judge Sylvester is the main dude, chief judge of the 18th judicial district that covers 4 counties. Don't know if this case was randomly assigned or if he said "I'm taking this", and I suspect the latter.

    I've only ever been before him on step-parent adoption cases, which are probably the only fun hearings (legal equivalent of being an OBGYN at a routine baby delivery), so he probably gets to pick and choose his docket.

    I wonder (none / 0) (#4)
    by bmaz on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 11:56:52 AM EST
    if Sylvester has the whole case or just the administrative early stuff like gag orders and media access etc?

    and as an aside... (none / 0) (#5)
    by magster on Fri Jul 27, 2012 at 12:00:35 PM EST
    when I implied that routine baby deliviries are fun, I only meant in the sense that its a joyous occassion where families are made, not the whole 12 hours of childbirth thing.

    No explanation required (none / 0) (#6)
    by NYShooter on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 01:32:17 AM EST
    Whoever thinks giving birth, whether the mother, or supporting cast, is "fun" had better make sure the mental health benefit portion of their insurance is up to date.

    "Fun" probably isn't the right term, but fwiw, even an old agnostic like me couldn't suppress a "Glory Be" at the sight of my son being born, an act I was glad to be forced into attending.


    Not sure (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:09:10 PM EST
    The judges in Arapahoe are assigned to types of cases -- criminal for example. So any criminal district court judge could take it. Here's the roster for July, 2011 to July, 2012. Sylvester's area was juvenile delinuqency and adoptions. I haven't seen the rotations for July 2012-2013.

    Incredibly, there aren't any written rules I could find on this other than this report by the Judicial Nominating Commission in January, 2012.

    In the 18th Judicial District, the majority of district court judges and magistrates are assigned to specialized dockets. This means they are assigned to hear one or two case types. For example, some judges hear primarily domestic relations cases while others hear primarily criminal cases. However, to make the most efficient use of courtrooms and judicial officer time, the judicial officers pick-up cases of any case type from others whenever their time allows. A cooperative system of docket management allows our very busy District to move cases along more efficiently than we otherwise could.

    Federal court is a lot more transparent.


    Bad for spurious, bogus gossip... (4.80 / 5) (#1)
    by bmaz on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 09:36:21 PM EST
    ...and good for actual procedural justice.

    Pretty refreshing to see this sober approach in Arapahoe County after so much time watching the Caligula like freak show free for all in Florida on Zimmerman.