Prosecutors in the Aurora theater shooting case deny that they are discouraging victims from talking to lawyers for gunman James Holmes. In a recent motion (on view below), they claim they've told victims they're free to speak with Holmes's lawyers if they choose -- though they add that some victims have balked at the defense's attempts to contact them. Prosecutors say several victims have become upset by such contacts and have asked them to intervene in order to stop Holmes's defense team from sending them letters. But prosecutors say it's not their place to do so.
Prosecutors are responding to a motion filed by Holmes's attorneys in June that accuses them of sabotaging the defense's credibility with the victims. As proof, Holmes's attorneys pointed to an e-mail sent by prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire in May. The e-mail, they argue, implied that Holmes's defense team isn't to be trusted and that defense efforts to contact victims have been "to manipulate, trick and lie" to them.
But prosecutors say that's not true. They claim they've repeatedly told victims it's normal for the defense to reach out to them and that Holmes's lawyers are just doing their jobs. "Needless to say, even this response from the District Attorney's Office further distressed some of the victims in the case," prosecutors write in their motion, "because they had hoped that the District Attorney's Office would help stop these defense communications that were causing some of the victims additional anguish."
The defense communications include a letter (on view below) that Holmes's attorneys sent to victims in November 2012, four months after the shooting that left twelve people dead and seventy wounded. In it, Holmes's lawyers invited victims to contact them with questions or "to let us know if we ever offend you." The letter ended with this: "With the holiday season coming upon us, we realize that this could be an especially painful time for you and your family. You are in our thoughts during this difficult time."
Continue for more on how Holmes's attorneys have contacted victims. Victims have also been contacted by a victim liaison hired by the defense. The liaison, Tammy Krause, sent at least two letters to victims. In the first, she introduced herself and explained that her job is to assist victims by "seeking answers to your questions, conveying any concerns you might have to the defense attorneys, and trying in any other way that I can to help the public defenders be responsive and sensitive to you."
Copies of the letters are attached as exhibits to the prosecutors' motion (on view below). Also attached are affidavits from seven victims who were contacted by Krause. (The victims' names are redacted.) Two say they chose not to respond to Krause. Two e-mailed Krause to request that she not contact them anymore. And two others initially agreed to speak with Krause but eventually cut off communication with her. The seventh victim did not indicate whether he or she replied to Krause's letters.
One of the victims who initially spoke to Krause said he or she stopped after Krause took the victim to dinner and asked for help in getting other victims to talk to her. The victim writes that he or she felt that Krause and a group called Coloradans Against the Death Penalty were "trying to use me to orchestrate a dialogue with the victims and survivors in this case to sway them towards changing their minds on the Death Penalty and to give them contact information for other victims."
After that dinner, the victim says he or she contacted prosecutor Teesch-Maguire to ask questions about what a victim liaison hired by the defense, like Krause, usually does. The victim says Teesch-Maguire offered an explanation but also emphasized that it was the victim's choice whether or not to speak with Krause.
"After having more information," the victim writes in his or her affidavit, "I decided completely on my own accord that I no longer wished to speak to (Krause)."
Holmes is accused of opening fire in an Aurora movie theater in July 2012. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. His attorneys have asked the judge to impose sanctions on prosecutors as punishment for discouraging victims from talking to them. One sanction suggested by Holmes's attorneys is to take the death penalty off the table.
But prosecutors don't think that punishment is warranted. They argue that Teesch-Maguire's e-mails to victims, including one in which she described Krause's role as helping Holmes "win the case," were appropriate and truthful.
Continue to read prosecutors' motion, accompanied by the letters and affidavits.
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