Court considers release of theater shooting report

CENTENNIAL – In a rare sign of unity on what has already been a bitterly fought legal case, Thursday, both prosecutors and the Colorado Public Defenders Office asked an Arapahoe County District Court judge to hold off on releasing an after-action report on the 2012 shooting inside the Century 16 Theater.

The report, commissioned by the City of Aurora in an attempt to better understand the chaotic rescue of patients, was completed in April at a cost of $250,000 to city taxpayers.

Representatives from the City of Aurora went in front of Judge Stephen Collins Thursday afternoon to ask him for guidance on whether or not the report could be released to the public in light of one of the most far reaching gag orders in Colorado history.

The gag order has so far largely prevented members from the Aurora Fire Department, Aurora Police Department, and Rural/Metro Ambulance from talking in public about the response to the July 20, 2012, shooting that left 12 dead and 70 injured.

Still at issue is why so many of the critically wounded patients left the theater not in ambulances but in police cruisers. Police officers, according to already-released dispatch tapes, asked repeatedly for ambulances to get closer to the theater to help evacuate patients.

9Wants to Know has done extensive work on the frenzied response highlighted by the nationally-award winning documentary After Aurora which debuted in July 2013:

Arapahoe County Senior Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman said his office has been put in a difficult situation when it comes to the report. "This is a very unusual circumstance," he told Judge Collins. He worried some of the information contained in the yet-to-be released report has yet to be made publicly available and could harm the ability of both the defense and prosecution to seat a jury.

The trial against James Holmes is set to begin with jury selection in December. Already, both sides are preparing for what will be the largest jury pool in state history.

"If [the report] is released, it will be put on the internet," said Orman.

Public defender Katherine Spengler went a step further. "The public release of this document is going to violate [the defendant's] right to a fair trial," she said.

Judge Collins said he would issue a ruling in the near future, but already hinted he's concerned about keeping the report from the public. Repeatedly, he asked Orman what harm the release might cause. "How does this make any difference to the criminal case?" he asked at one point.

Holmes' defense does not deny his role in the shooting, but has prepared an insanity defense in the death penalty case. 9NEWS has filed an open records request for a release of the report.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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