Judge Refuses Sanctions|in Mass-Murder Case

     DENVER (CN) – The judge in the case of accused mass murderer James Holmes has denied the defense’s call for sanctions against the prosecution, finding no evidence that prosecutors interfered with the defense.
     Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 criminal counts, including murder, in the July 20, 2012 massacre at an Aurora, movie theater midnight premiere of a Batman movie. Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured.
     Prosecutors indicated they will seek the death penalty.
     The defense in late June filed a motion in Arapahoe County District Court, claiming the prosecution was interfering with the defense’s investigation by telling witnesses not to talk to any member of the defense team. They claimed they had proof, including an email from Arapahoe County Deputy District Attorney Lisa Teesch-Maguire which the defense claimed “contains significant factual and legal misrepresentation, clearly discourages victim-witnesses from speaking with the defense, and constitutes a serious violation of several legal and ethical rules,” the defense motion stated.
     The prosecution fired back two weeks later, claiming they had sent that email because members of the defense team were emotionally overwhelming victims while trying to communicate with them.
     On Wednesday, Arapahoe County Judge Carlos Samour published an order denying the defense calls for sanctions.
     “The defendant now asks for severe sanctions, contending that he ‘has documented evidence that the prosecution … has interfered with defense preparation, denied the defense equal opportunity to speak to witnesses, improperly attacked the integrity of the defense, impeded and obstructed defense counsel’s investigation through improper influence, and … compromised [the prosecution’s role] as an impartial advocate for justice,'” the 37-page order states. “The defendant asks the Court to preclude the death penalty as a sanction. In the alternative, the defendant requests that the Court either prohibit victim impact evidence at any capital sentencing hearing or disqualify the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office from this case.
     “The Court concluded that none of the drastic sanctions requested is warranted. The email on which the defendant relies does not establish that the prosecution has compromised its role as an impartial advocate for justice, interfered with the defense’s preparation, denied the defense equal opportunity to speak to witnesses, improperly attacked the integrity of defense counsel, or impeded and obstructed defense counsel’s investigation through improper influence. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, to address a concern raised by the defendant, the Court requires the prosecution to send a clarifying email in accordance with this order.”
     This is not the first time the defense accused prosecutors of interfering. Last year, Holmes’ attorney filed a similar motion that was dismissed without prejudice because it could not provide a specific example of interference.
     There will be two hearings, on July 22 and 23, for a pretrial status conference and to address several other motions.
     Also on Wednesday, Samour pushed back the trial date to December. In compliance with a pretrial publicity order, neither side is available to comment on the case.

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