Aurora theater shooting: Why has judge barred cameras from next James Holmes hearing?
18th Judicial District Chief Judge William Sylvester has barred cameras from next Monday's court appearance by James Holmes, the suspected gunman in the Aurora theater shootings. And while his order, on view below, doesn't specifically mention the national guessing game about Holmes's mental condition that followed videos from his first court appearance two days ago, you can bet it was a factor in his decision.
As we noted in the post linked above, the demeanor of Holmes, who seemed dazed and on the verge of nodding out on numerous occasions, spurred a boom in body-language analysis and speculation about whether he's putting on an act, under the influence of heavy medication or suffering from a wide range of potential psychoses.
Outlets ranging from Entertainment Tonight to the U,K. Daily Mail to a TV station in North Carolina gave psychiatrists and other supposed experts an opportunity to diagnose this particular patient based on a few minutes of footage. And you can bet these folks and others were ready to do likewise next Monday, when Holmes is expected to be formally charged with killing twelve people and injuring scores of others at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.
Sylvester doesn't appear to want to play that game, however -- or at least he'd like to put it off for as long as possible. In the first document seen here, he notes a request on behalf of 9News and the Denver Post for audio, video and still photography at the proceeding, as well as an objection to expanded media coverage filed Monday on behalf of Holmes by his public defenders.
The Holmes legal team put forth a similar filing on Friday before the first hearing, and Sylvester denied it. This time, though, he weighed the Colorado Court Rule that considers "whether there is a reasonable likelihood that expanded media coverage would interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial; whether there is a reasonable likelihood that expanded media coverage would unduly detract from the solemnity, decorum and dignity of the court; and whether expanded media coverage would create adverse effects which would be greater than those caused by traditional media coverage."
After doing so, Sylvester flipped the script, opening the proceeding to the general public and the media but banning cameras and audio recordings.
This shift is in keeping with other recent court orders to seal the case against Holmes and limit pre-trial publicity; we've included those documents as well. Clearly, Sylvester understands the probability that the Holmes case will devolve into what we've come to refer to as a media circus, even though such spectacles are far too sprawling and chaotic to be contained by three rings. He may not be able to prevent it from happening, but neither does he want the show so early in what's bound to be a very lengthy process.
Here are the various orders from Judge Sylvester.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.