D.A. Says Massacre Victims Are Being Harassed
DENVER (CN) - Survivors of the Colorado movie theater massacre have been harassed by conspiracy theorists who posted victims' addresses and phone numbers online, prosecutors said in a motion to have the victims' names redacted.
James Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder in the midnight shooting that killed 12 people and wounded 58 others during the premiere of a Batman movie, "Dark Knight Rises."
Arapahoe County Judge William Sylvester in November ordered names released of those injured and killed.
The media had claimed there would not be "any danger to the physical safety of any witnesses, or the substantial probability of attempted witness tampering."
But Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said in his new motion last week that the victims' personal information has made the rounds on the Internet, at the hands of skeptics who doubt that the July 20, 2012 shootings happened as reported.
"Since the time this case was filed, unforeseen events continue to adversely affect the lives of the victims and witnesses in this case," Brauchler wrote in a Motion for Reconsideration.
"These events include the filing [of] motions by persons who have allegedly impersonated victims and witnesses in this case, and relentless contacts by proponents of purported 'conspiracies' who have contacted victims in this case, some of whom have even gone so far as to recruit other members of the public to contact the victims and to publicly post maps with the home addresses and phone numbers of the victims on various social-media (s)ites. The District Attorney continues to believe that the continued release of the victims' names potentially compromises the rights of these victims to be free from harassment or abuse throughout the criminal justice process. The District Attorney's Office has contacted the victims(s) whose names could potentially be released and those victim(s) have expressed concerns for their privacy and personal safety, and have requested that the people request that their names be redacted from any records and court filings released to the public in the public court file or on the court's website."
Judge Sylvester in November favored release of the victims' names because their identities already had been leaked.
Sylvester wrote in November: "(T)the Court finds that, to be considered 'reasonable,' an order designed to prevent harm must be likely to effectively prevent some degree of the harm. The Court suppressed the case file in its entirety for the first two months of the investigation, and it has allowed for many redactions by both parties with the intention of protecting the privacy and well-being of the victims and witnesses. To the dismay of the Court, many of these victims and witnesses have still been located, contacted, and in some cases, harassed by the media and by third parties trying to use the names of victims and witnesses to intervene. ... Thus, redaction of the names and of victims or witnesses at this point would be largely symbolic and have very little practical effect."
In his new filing, District Attorney Brauchler said the redactions could prevent "future unnecessary harm" to the victims.
"It is not futile for the Court to redact these victim(s)' name from the public court file at this time because the redaction of this witness's name [sic] from the public court file 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 and with these particular victim(s)' abilities to continue to cooperate with the criminal justice system in this case. For these reasons, and the reasons articulated in any prior responses, the People request that the names of any victim(s) be redacted before public release of any previously sealed documents." (Parentheses in complaint.)