The University of Colorado is no longer subject to a gag order related to the case of accused Aurora theater shooter and former student James Holmes. Judge William Sylvester has ruled that it's now up to the university to decide what information to release.
In another motion made public today, attorneys for Holmes said they are "extremely concerned" about his well-being.
In a motion filed late Thursday afternoon (and on view below), Holmes's attorneys said they tried to visit their client at the Arapahoe County Jail at 1 p.m. On Wednesday, they'd successfully requested that a hearing scheduled for Thursday be postponed because Holmes had gone to the hospital. Subsequent reports indicate that he tried to harm himself on three separate occasions Tuesday by banging his head.
When Holmes's attorneys showed up to the jail, they said they were told "they would not be permitted to meet with Mr. Holmes at that time." No explanation was given, they wrote. "Counsel for Mr. Holmes are extremely concerned about the well-being of their client and are currently being denied any information from the jail about his welfare," they wrote.
Judge William Sylvester issued a hand-written ruling that same day granting defense attorneys "reasonable access at least once per day" to Holmes. (Read it below.)
As for the lifting of the gag order, Sylvester has ruled that "it is up to the University of Colorado to make determinations regarding the release of information."
"The Court has restricted the release of information for almost four months now," he wrote in a ruling on view below, "giving everyone involved adequate opportunity to prepare for the proper and authorized disclosure to the public."
Media outlets have made more than thirty open records requests to the university, where Holmes was a neuroscience student. The requests ask for staff e-mails regarding Holmes, information about the lab in which he was working and records from the school's Behavioral Assessment and Threat Assessment Team, which Holmes's psychiatrist reportedly alerted about him, among other information.
It's unlikely that the media will get everything it wants. Laws such as the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act dictate which student records can be released.
CU has released a statement saying it will conduct a "careful analysis" of the pending requests and release information as the law allows.
Continue to view the statement and documents referenced above. University of Colorado statement:
The University of Colorado learned today that Judge Sylvester modified the order that previously prevented the University from responding to requests under the Colorado Open Records Act. In doing so, Judge Sylvester noted that his order "does not serve as a blanket release of all information held by the University of Colorado." Instead, the University will "address any pending and future CORA requests pursuant to state and federal law, while considering the interplay with this Court's previous orders." The order notes that the University "will need to conduct the proper statutory analysis with respect to the requested records."
The University has received more than 30 open records requests and will conduct exactly the careful analysis that Judge Sylvester's order requires. In doing so, the University will comply with two equally important legal obligations. First, it will analyze each of the requests to determine whether it requests records that state or federal law does not permit the University to release. Second, after ensuring that it is allowed to release a particular document, the University will produce documents those who have requested them. As a public educational institution, the University is committed to upholding the law in all respects.
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