CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Prosecutors in the Aurora movie theater shooting case deny defense allegations they behaved improperly in their discussions with potential witnesses. In fact, they allege the defense has misled some of those witnesses.
Defense attorneys for the shooting suspect, James Holmes, filed a motion on July 29 claiming prosecutors had improperly asked the witnesses what they told the defense. In their response, prosecutors acknowledged asking that question but denied it was improper.
"There is nothing improper about the prosecution's request, and there is no law or Colorado rule that prohibits the prosecution team, law enforcement, the defense attorneys, or the defense investigators or any attorney on any case from gathering information from potential witnesses as part of the trial preparation process of a case," the prosecution wrote.
Prosecutors also deny they discouraged witnesses from speaking to the defense or warned them that defense lawyers would manipulate their statements if they did, as the defense lawyers alleged.
"The prosecution team and/or law enforcement has made no such statements to the witnesses in this case," they wrote.
The defense also alleged that witnesses who had agreed to interviews abruptly decided to decline after speaking to the prosecution.
"The prosecution team and/or law enforcement have not discouraged any witness from speaking to the defense in this case, but have informed victims and witnesses of their rights to speak or not speak to anyone regarding this case," prosecutors wrote in their reply.
Taking their own jab, prosecutors said they've heard from some witnesses who were contacted by someone that identified themselves as a "criminal investigator working on the case." The prosecution says that title caused some witnesses to assume they were talking to a law enforcement agent or prosecutor, not an agent of the defense team.
"Only after some of the witnesses agreed to an interview with the 'criminal investigator' were they told by this 'criminal investigator' that this interview was with the defense team," the prosecution wrote.
They continued, "The prosecution team and/or law enforcement obviously have an obligation to accurately and forthrightly discuss these issues with victims and witnesses."
Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring 70 with multiple firearms in an Aurora theater on July 20, 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 166 counts, including murder and attempted murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.