Theater shooting case: Judge denies city of Aurora's request to lift gag order

Update: In an order dated February 11, Judge William Sylvester denied the city of Aurora's request to lift a gag order in place since the early days of the theater shooting case. The city asked for permission "to speak publicly about the city's response to the theater shootings, and to release the recordings of the two 911 calls played in open court." However, Sylvester concluded that he "is not in a position to authorize, or prohibit, the release of information as requested by the city of Aurora." Read his entire ruling below.

Original post: Aurora theater shooting victims are being harassed by "proponents of purported 'conspiracies,'" according to a motion filed by prosecutors requesting that victims' names be redacted from court documents if the gag order in the case is lifted, as the city of Aurora requested. Some of the harassers "have even gone so far as to ... publically post maps with the home addresses and phone numbers of victims on various social media sites," the motion says.

Last month, the City of Aurora asked Judge William Sylvester to revise a gag order that prohibits law enforcement agents from discussing what happened on July 20, when twelve people were killed and seventy were wounded due to a gunman opening fire at the Century 16 theater. "The city has refused numerous requests...to give presentations regarding the theater shooting," an attorney for the city wrote in a motion. Given that "extensive factual testimony" was heard at a preliminary hearing in early January, the city's attorney argued that Sylvester should consider whether the gag order "is now moot."

But prosecutors and defense attorneys for suspect James Holmes don't want the order lifted. However, if the judge decides to do so, prosecutors ask that victims' names be left out. Some victims are key witnesses in the case, prosecutors say. Redacting their names "will both prevent future unnecessary harm to these victim(s) and signal to the public, and to the victim(s), that this court is concerned with the careful administration of justice in this case," they write in a motion on view below.

In a motion also seen here, attorneys for Holmes say they're concerned that lifting the gag order "will jeopardize his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury."

The conspiracy theorists mentioned by prosecutors do indeed exist. In August, someone filed a bizarre court motion asserting that Holmes "is being framed by [Denver billionaire] Philip Anschutz, police chief Dan Oates, and the illuminati." And in January, a person covered the women's bathroom at the Arapahoe County District Courthouse, where the case is being heard, with Post-it notes bearing a web address for a YouTube page with an hour-and-a-half-long film called The James Holmes Conspiracy.

Read the motions -- and Sylvester's ruling -- below.

People's Response to Aurora's Motion re: Reconsideration of Pre-Trial Publicity Orders

Defense Response to Aurora's Motion Re: Reconsideration of Pre-Trial Publicity Orders

Order Re: Motion Regarding Reconsideration of Pre-Trial Publicity Orders

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Fox News tells James Holmes's lawyers it will 'vigorously' defend reporter against subpoena."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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