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Colorado Theater Shooting Judge Orders Records Release

Prosecutors can see university records of James E. Holmes, the man accused of slaying 12 people at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in July, the state judge presiding over the murder case ruled.

Judge William Sylvester, in an order made public yesterday, granted a request by prosecutors to unseal some of Holmes’ University of Colorado records, including parts of the school registrar’s files, his unofficial transcript and some campus police files. Holmes attended the school in 2011 and 2012.

“Documents that establish defendant’s expectations when applying to the University of Colorado could possibly make more or less probable the fact that defendant had a motive to commit the crimes charged,” Sylvester said in his 9-page ruling.

Holmes, 24, faces 166 criminal counts including 24 for first-degree murder and more than 100 for attempted murder for allegedly opening fire on the audience at a midnight showing of the film “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20.

First-degree murder is punishable by death or life in prison under Colorado law, and multiple counts can be charged for each death. Holmes hasn’t entered a plea in the case.

Colorado Public Defender Douglas Wilson, whose office is defending Holmes, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message yesterday seeking comment on the ruling.

Holmes’ lawyers opposed the release of his collegiate records, arguing that prosecutors were trying “circumvent” his constitutional protections from unlawful search and seizure and that their client had a reasonable expectation of privacy for that information under the state and federal law, according to the court decision.

Privacy Overridden

In granting access to some school records, Sylvester said he found the interests of law enforcement overrode federal education record privacy laws.

Among those documents the judge said neither prosecutors nor members of the public could see were Holmes’ class schedule, voice-mail records and a category identified in the ruling only as a “database note,” which the university asserted might relate to privileged communications.

While stating that if the university police had a file on Holmes it was likely relevant to the investigation, Sylvester said prosecutors wouldn’t be entitled to any communications between the department and university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton, who the judge had previously found had a professional relationship with the defendant.

The case is People v. Holmes, 12-cr-01522, 18th Judicial District Court, Colorado (Centennial).

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