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Media urge unsealing of documents in Colorado shooting case

Posted at 9:30 PM, Aug 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-09 19:40:37-04

CENTENNIAL, Colorado (CNN) — Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes appeared in court Thursday as attorneys for 17 news organizations, including CNN, asked the presiding judge to unseal the full court record in the case.

In a strange moment during the proceedings, a woman in the public gallery stood up and said she had “vital information” to give to Holmes’ defense team and that she wasn’t being allowed to talk to them.

The woman, who had a shaved head, had waited all day to enter the courtroom. It wasn’t clear what her information was and court officials escorted her out.

Holmes sat shackled and wearing his maroon prison garb during the hearing while his lawyers argued against the media request for the records to be unsealed. In a document submitted to Arapaho County District Judge William Sylvester, Holmes’ lawyers said unsealing the entire court record would jeopardize the ability of the defendant to get a fair trial.

Sylvester has allowed the public release of some documents in the case but kept many others under seal. The news organizations are asking Sylvester to make the rest of the court record public, particularly affidavits for probable cause involving search warrants that already have been executed.

Holmes’ lawyers say they have 2,677 pages of discovery and are awaiting more, and they said they cannot assess the depth of their client’s mental illness until they have more evidence.

The prosecution is also arguing against the release of further records, saying hundreds of people still need to be interviewed — whether again or for the first time — and that it is too premature to unseal the records.

Sylvester did not rule on the matter Thursday and an attorney representing the media said it’s unclear when the judge would make a ruling.

Holmes had the same bright orange hair color but appeared more lucid Thursday than at his initial court appearance last month. He appeared to pay attention and at times even looked bored.

The 24-year-old former doctoral student is accused of opening fire in an Aurora movie theater during a screening of the new Batman film on July 20, killing 12 people and wounding 58. He was charged last week with murder and attempted murder, and also faces two weapons charges.

A court document filed last month revealed that Holmes was a patient of University of Colorado psychiatrist Lynne Fenton before the killings.

Fenton was so concerned about Holmes’ behavior that she mentioned it to her colleagues in early June, saying he could potentially be a danger to others, CNN affiliate KMGH reported, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation.

A hearing is scheduled for August 16 on whether their relationship is privileged.

Also Thursday, Holmes’ landlord filed in court to have Holmes evicted from his Aurora apartment, which after the shooting authorities found booby trapped with explosives.

Holley Realty and Management cited a “substantial” violation of the terms of his lease — “in particular, you (Holmes) murdered numerous individuals, materially and substantially damaged the premises, and booby trapped the premises substantially endangering property and person.”

The landlord’s attorney, Victor Sulzer, said Holmes’ representatives have one week to respond to the filing or else sheriff’s deputies will be permitted to remove all of the belongings. Sulzer said he doesn’t know how many items are still in the apartment.

CNN’s Michael Cary contributed to this report.