Judge says he lacks jurisdiction to grant shooting victims access to Aurora Century 16 theater

3 Victims are suing theater owner

CENTENNIAL, Colo. - A judge has denied three Aurora shooting victims' request for access to the Century 16 theater, ruling that the court no longer has jurisdiction because the theater has been released as a crime scene.

The three victims -- Brandon Axelrod, Denise Traynom and Joshua Nowlan -- have filed a federal lawsuit against Cinemark, the theater's owner, saying that lax security allowed the shooting rampage to happen.

The victims have also asked Arapahoe County District Chief Judge William Sylvester to grant them access to key records that are sealed in the criminal case against accused shooter James Holmes. The victims want to review affidavits supporting arrest and search warrants, a list of items law enforcement seized during searches and transcripts of 911 calls related to the shooting.

In a ruling made public Wednesday, Sylvester said he would allow prosecutors and defense attorneys 21 days to respond to the victims' motion for the records.

The victims' attorney, Christina Habas, said in the motion that her clients need the documents to proceed with their civil lawsuit and would comply with a court order "preventing them from divulging this information to any unauthorized third party."

News organizations have also requested that the court unseal the records.

The victims' motion also seeks "access to the theater for purposes of documenting and photographing the theater."

Habas noted that Cinemark has announced plans to renovate the Century 16 in preparation to reopen it, implying that victims' might be unable to photograph the theater as it appeared during and after the shooting.

Sylvester said he didn't have jurisdiction to grant access to the theater, because it's no longer a crime scene.

In another battle in the criminal case, prosecutors have filed court papers saying defense attorneys were too vague in a request for sanctions against law enforcement over information leaked to the news media about a notebook Holmes' mailed to his psychiatrist on the night of the shooting.

News reports citing unnamed law enforcement sources have said Holmes' notebook details his plans for the theater attack, including drawings. The defense said the leaks violated a judge's gag order, restricting what authorities can say about the case. The notebook has been sealed.

In a motion for sanctions released Oct. 3, the defense said its review of more than 16,000 pages of law enforcement documents produced during discovery "supports the defense's concern that the government was responsible for leaking information about the contents of the package to the media."

But in a response to the defense motion released Wednesday, prosecutors said defense attorneys do not specifically cite the records supporting their belief that law enforcement leaked information about the notebook. Prosecutors also said the defense doesn't identify who leaked the information.

Meanwhile, the defense has dropped its request for sanctions against the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office for releasing a new mug shot of Holmes with newly cropped hair last month. The defense had accused the Sheriff's Office of violating the judge's gag order and jeopardizing Holmes' right to a fair trial.

But in a court filing released Wednesday, defense attorneys said that, after conversations with the Sheriff's Office, they were dropping their request for sanctions and a hearing on the matter.

 Holmes will be in court Thursday for a hearing on scheduling for his preliminary hearing.



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