Most documents, including the affidavits of probable cause, will remain sealed in the case of the Aurora, Colo. theater shooting, a judge decided today.
Chief Judge William Sylvester also reaffirmed a gag order that prohibits the parties in the case from talking about it.
Sylvester was responding to a request from media outlets, including NPR, to unseal those documents. The affidavit of probable cause, for example, would include an official narrative that would justify an arrest of a search warrant. The media also sought documents from the University of Colorado, where the alleged shooter James Holmes attended school and saw a psychiatrist.
"Sylvester pointed out that the university houses information on Holmes that's considered privileged and cited defense attorney arguments that some of it would be prejudicial and non-admissible in court. He wrote that the risk of jeopardizing a fair trial was greater than the public's "legitimate interest" in the proceedings.
"'If such an improvident disclosure were to occur, it would not simply be a case of trying to "unring the bell." A better analogy would be like stepping on the brakes of an automobile in midair after driving off a cliff — a driver can pump the brakes all he/she wants, but the impending wreck is inevitable,' Sylvester wrote in one of two orders issued Monday afternoon."
NPR's outside council, Steven D. Zansberg, said they were disappointed some documents remained sealed and they hoped the court would reconsider.
"We are pleased that Judge Sylvester has unsealed 34 documents in the court file that were previously not available to the public, and thereby has brought much needed transparency to this judicial proceeding," Zansberg said in a statement.