James Holmes case: DA brushes off call for sanctions, suing victims denied theater access
Today, three new documents were released in the case of accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes pertaining to a pair of controversies -- defense attorneys' call for sanctions against prosecutors for allegedly lying about Holmes being banned from the Anschutz Medical Campus, and a request from three shooting survivors suing the theater's owner to access the auditorium where he opened fire. Get details and see the documents below.
In covering an August 23 hearing, our Melanie Asmar wrote the following:
Suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was banned from the University of Colorado in June after he made threats that were reported to the campus police, prosecutors said in court today. That month, he also failed his oral board exams, was told by professors that he should perhaps find a different path and began to withdraw from the school's neuroscience program.
She elaborated on this information with an allusion to prosecutor Karen Pearson:
Pearson said Holmes wasn't doing well in school and suggested that he wasn't living up to his own academic expectations. She said he failed his oral exams on June 7, which she said was "very much relevant to what happened afterward" -- including that Holmes bought guns and ammunition and rigged his apartment with explosives. Pearson said CU shut off Holmes's ID card after he made threats, but she didn't go into detail.
Shortly thereafter, CU spokeswoman Jacque Montgomery stepped forward to dispute this account. She told us Holmes hadn't actually been banned from campus for making threats. Rather, his access to portions of the campus not open to the general public had been nixed because he was in the process of withdrawing from the neuroscience program.
Carol Chambers speaks to the media after a previous hearing.
Photo by Melanie Asmar
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Holmes's attorneys later asked Judge William Sylvester to sanction the district attorneys' office for what it termed "reckless disregard for the truth" for these statements. But in a newly released response, DA Carol Chambers simply shrugs off the charge. "The People believe" that the pleading "is too vague a document to prepare an actual response," the filing reads. Reasons listed include:
• It "does not specify the particular extra-judicial statement (or statements) that are allegedly at issue."
• It "does not identify who the defense is alleging actually made the alleged extra-judicial statement (or statements)."
• It does not indicate whether the defense is alleging whether it believes that the extra-judicial statement (or statements) about which it is complaining is factually accurate, inaccurate, or a combination of both."
Hence, writes Chambers, "the People are unable to respond to the vague allegations set forth" in the document.
Will this be the last word on this subject? The answer, almost certainly, is "no."
Brandon Axelrod, left, speaks with reporters in the days after the Aurora theater shooting.
The other two documents flow from two lawsuits filed by three individuals who survived the July 20 attack during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises: Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, who filed jointly, and Joshua Nowlan. All three were injured, with Traynom being shot in the gluteus maximus and Axelrod suffering knee damage while protecting her, and Nowlan shot in the arm (the bullet almost severed it) and the leg.
As we've reported, the suits maintain that Cinemark, owner of the Aurora Century 16, where the massacre took place, "had information that previous disturbances, incidents, disruptions and other criminal activities had taken place at or near the property of the theater" prior to the fateful screening. Moreover, the suits continue, "These incidents most commonly took place during the evening hours" and included "at least one shooting, involving gang members," as well as assaults and robberies.
Because of such problems, the suits note that the Century 16 had regularly hired various security personnel to work at the theater, including off-duty Aurora police officers -- but they were typically on duty only Friday and Saturday nights. An exception: On July 19, the suit says officers were on hand for the transfer of box-office cash -- but not for the midnight screenings, when huge throngs descended on the theater to attend one of the year's most anticipated movie launches.
Moreover, the suits continue, the exterior doors to the theater lacked "any alarm system, interlocking security systems, or any other security or alarm features which would have put Defendant's employees or security personnel on notice that someone had surreptitiously left the theater by the exterior door and had put the door in an open position which would facilitate a surreptitious and unlawful re-entry" -- precisely what Holmes is thought to have done. And neither did the theater have procedures in place to prevent anyone from taking this action, the complaint maintains.
Cinemark subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuits, maintaining in a response that it "would be patently unfair, and legally unsound, to impose on Cinemark...the duty and burden to have foreseen and prevented the criminal equivalent of a meteor falling from the sky." But the suits remain active, and in a document entitled "Motion to Intervene for Limited Purpose," attorneys representing the victims ask for "access to review limited documents, and to access Auditorium 9 of the Aurora Century 16 Theater."
In response, Sylvester denied the request for an interesting reason: According to his motion, "the location has been released as a crime scene and is therefore no longer subject to the control of the Court."
The bottom line: While the Century 16 remains closed, it's no longer considered a crime scene -- which allows Cinemark the opportunity to move forward with its plans to reopen the theater in a matter of months.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes case: Inside three victims' lawsuits against Aurora theater."
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