Aurora theater shooting: Court spokesman's tweets didn't violate gag order, judge says

In a motion that quotes liberally from Twitter, defense attorneys for Aurora theater shooting gunman James Holmes asked the court this week to order Colorado Judicial Branch public information officer Rob McCallum to comply with a gag order in the case. Their main complaint? That McCallum uses Twitter to disseminate public information, such as the dates of court hearings. They also complain that McCallum exchanged "jovial Tweets" with one of the prosecutors. In an order (on view below), Judge Carlos Samour found that McCallum did not violate the gag order.

In the motion (also on view below), Holmes's lawyers allege that "a vast portion of Mr. McCallum's Tweets deal with Mr. Holmes's case." They also note that McCallum's Twitter bio declares "Tweets r mine," but "there can be no serious argument that he does not use this Twitter account in the course of his work."

And what does that look like? Here is one Tweet included in the motion:

Holmes's attorneys also complain that McCallum follows the prosecuting district attorney's office on Twitter and even the DA himself, George Brauchler. And they accuse him of exchanging "jovial Tweets" with Holmes prosecutor Rich Orman. Below is one such Tweet, which is in response to something that Orman tweeted. Orman's account is private, so we couldn't include the original tweet in this blog post. But according to the motion, which includes a screen capture of it, the tweet reads: "When we finally got to the monument to General Grant's Memo, it was kind of a letdown. Not memo related."

Attorneys for Holmes also note that McCallum has retweeted messages from law enforcement agencies involved in the case, including one from the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office congratulating Sheriff Grayson Robinson on his retirement. It mentions that he follows Fox News reporter Jana Winter, whom the defense is attempting to subpoena to testify about unnamed law enforcement sources she quoted in a story about the case, that he sometimes fields "procedural questions" from journalists and that he's answered questions from regular ol' citizens about where to find documents in the case.

Full disclosure: We here at Westword appreciate McCallum's tweets. In fact, in 2012, we nominated him for Best PR Flack on Twitter in our annual Web Awards contest.

Judge Samour writes in his order that "the Court does not have an adequate record before it to find that there has been a violation of any of the authorities referenced in the defendant's motion," which include the gag order. "Nor does the defendant ask for such a finding," Samour continues. "Accordingly, the Court makes no finding of a violation."

Samour did, however, order "compliance with all orders limiting pretrial publicity."

In another motion made public this week (on view below), Holmes's public defenders went after the judge himself for what Samour decides to redact from publicly available documents in the case -- and what he decides to leave unredacted for the public to read.

Continue for more on the defense's motions and Samour's responses.   Specifically, they object to the way Samour redacted his recent order for Holmes to undergo a second mental evaluation. Large swaths of the document were blacked out, but Holmes's attorneys note that Samour did not redact parts in which he praised the prosecution's expert witnesses and observed that the doctor who performed Holmes's first sanity evaluation, Dr. Jeffrey Metzner, was "blindsided" by prosecutors' allegations that he was biased and views them as "adversaries."

Judge Carlos Samour in court in June 2013.
Judge Carlos Samour in court in June 2013.
Andy Cross/Denver Post

Holmes's attorneys also take issue with the fact that the judge did redact from a different document the nature of concerns about Holmes expressed by Denver Health Medical Center, which treated him in November 2012. The details are similarly blacked out of the public version of the defense's motion, as can be seen in the quote below:

"The Court's sua sponte decisions to selectively reveal and redact information to the public concerning this case in a way that communicates its confidence in and approval of the prosecution's experts, its less-than-stellar view of Dr. Metzner, and attempts to needlessly hide (redacted) concerning Mr. Holmes's medical and psychiatric treatment that have already been made public are concerning," defense attorneys write.

(Note: sua sponte is Latin for "of one's own will," according to

In the motion, Holmes's lawyers ask for the opportunity "to review the Court's proposed redactions" and register their objections before the documents are made public.

In an order (on view below), Samour denies their request. He states that he stands by his redactions and that having the lawyers on both sides review proposed redactions beforehand would be "wholly impractical" and a "logistical nightmare."

Read all of the motions referenced in this post below, as well as Samour's orders.

Motion to Compel Court Public Information Officer to Comply With Gag Order

Order Re: Motion to Compel Court Public Information Officer to Comply with Gag Order

Motion to Allow Parties to Have Input on Redactions

Order Denying Motion to Allow Parties to Have Input on Redactions

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes case: Second sanity exam postponed until judge rules on objections."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at

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