Aurora Theater Shooting

James Holmes case: Prosecutors clarify that victims can talk to defense if they want

Prosecutors in the James Holmes case have sent an e-mail to victims clarifying that they are allowed to speak to Holmes's attorneys if they want. Judge Carlos Samour ordered prosecutors to send the e-mail (on view below) after defense attorneys complained that prosecutors were discouraging victims from talking to them and to a victim liaison they hired. In an e-mail sent to victims in May, a prosecutor wrote that the liaison's role is to "find Victims who will help the Defendant" -- which Holmes's attorneys say isn't true.

See also: James Holmes trial now scheduled to begin December 8

In that same e-mail, prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire wrote: "If you want to help the Defendant -- that is your choice and you are free to do so, but please know that you can voice those opinions through this office, just as strongly."

The effect of the e-mail, Holmes's attorneys argued, was to dissuade victims from talking to them. "The prosecution has sabotaged the defense's credibility with the victim-witnesses in this case, and wrongly inflamed the victims and their families," they wrote. Holmes's attorneys asked that prosecutors be sanctioned for interfering with the defense's investigation of the case. One of the sanctions they suggested was to take the death penalty off the table as a possible punishment for Holmes.

Judge Samour wasn't willing to go that far, but he did order prosecutors to send another e-mail to victims. "The Court concludes that none of the drastic sanctions requested is warranted," he wrote. "Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, to address a concern raised by the defendant, the Court requires the prosecution to send a clarifying e-mail."

Teesch-Maguire sent that e-mail to victims on July 31. In it, she made clear that "it is your choice to decide whether or not you would like to speak with the defense.

"You have the right to speak or not to speak to anyone you wish about this case, or to be interviewed by anyone (or not to be interviewed by anyone) you wish about this case," she wrote. "This choice is completely your choice alone to make. This includes the prosecution, the defense, or anyone else who requests to speak with you about this case."

However, she warned victims that anything they say "may potentially be used in Court."

Holmes is accused of murdering twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire in an Aurora movie theater in July 2012. His trial is set to begin December 8.

Read Teesch-Maguire's entire e-mail to victims below.

Prosecutors' E-mail to Victims

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar