Joker case gagged: Media fight Colorado court ban


Attorneys representing media outlets are in court to push for the publication of files concerning the Colorado cinema murders. The judge put a gag on the files at the behest of prosecutors, but the press argues the public has a right to see them.

The decision to seal the documents off from public access “undermines our nation’s firm commitment to the transparency and public accountability of the criminal justice system,” said media lawyer Steven Zansberg in a written statement.

The Associated Press along with 20 other news agencies is appealing for the dissemination of the documents in court this Thursday.

Judge William Sylvester closed the case on July 20 at the request of the prosecutors, who claim that releasing the files could potentially jeopardize the case investigation. The move sparked a wave of protest from the media, saying the public had a right to see the documents.

Press attorneys argue that the explanation given for the sealing of the files is not adequate and needs to be elaborated on if the bar is to remain in place. In most court cases in the US the documents pertaining to the trial are available to the public. However, exceptions are made if files obstruct an ongoing police investigation or encroach on the privacy of family members of the victims.

The files in question include the affidavits the police would have filled in before defendant James Holmes was arrested, detailing why officers thought that he was the murderer. The bar on the documents makes it impossible for observers to follow the arguments put forward by the defense and the prosecution during the trial because they reference the files by number only.

Judge Sylvester has also classified the court docket, preventing observers from seeing any documents filed in connection with the case.

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