AURORA | A judge Tuesday rejected a request from the city of Aurora to relax a gag order in the James Holmes case.
In a five-page ruling, Judge William Sylvester said the order, which restricts what police, prosecutors and Holmes’ lawyers can say about the case, is still useful and should remain unchanged.
Lawyers for the city had asked Sylvester to relax the order so they could discuss the city’s response to the theater shooting with other municipalities who hope to learn from Aurora’s experience. The city argued that the order, which Sylvester put in place a few days after the shooting and Holmes’ arrest was no longer relevant after a trove of details were released during Holmes’ preliminary hearing last month.
In his order,Sylvester said the order remains relevant.
Sylvester said he understands the tough spot city officials are in when it comes to the order and he commended them for being cautious about releasing information.
But, he said it would be up to city officials to use their own best judgement as to what they can and can’t discuss about the case.
The city hired an outside law firm to handle several matters associated with the July 20 shooting, including the motion asking that the gag order be relaxed.
Aurora City Attorney Charlie Richardson said Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to appeal the judge’s ruling.
“We are essentially back to the status quo,” Richardson said.
City council on Monday gave initial approval to hire an outside firm to study the city’s response to the shooting. Richardson said he has a call in to District Attorney George Brauchler for advice on what the city can discuss with the outside firm in light of Sylvester’s ruling.
But, Richardson said, he doesn’t expect the interviews with that outside firm to be a problem. Whether the subsequent report will be available to the public though will likely have to be litigated when the report is complete six months from now, he said.
Prosecutors and Holmes’ lawyers had objected to the city’s request to relax the gag order.
Holmes’ lawyers argued that releasing more information could taint the jury pool and make it difficult for Holmes to get a fair trial.
Prosecutors said releasing more information about victims could put those victims at risk of harassment. Already, prosecutors said, victims and witnesses have been harassed by conspiracy theorists.
Holmes faces more than 100 charges stemming fro them July 20 theater rampage, which left 12 dead and 70 hurt inside the Century Aurora 16 theater.