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Colorado rampage case lawyers oppose letting victims see files

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Lawyers in the murder case of accused Colorado gunman James Holmes oppose allowing victims suing the theater chain where the rampage occurred to review sealed evidence in the criminal case, court filings showed on Tuesday.

Both prosecutors and defense lawyers told the judge that allowing the victims access to the investigative files while the murder case is pending would unduly complicate the process.

Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, is charged with dozens of counts of murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a suburban Denver theater during a midnight screening of the "The Dark Knight Rises."

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester has yet to rule on the issue, although he denied the same victims access to the theater earlier this month, ruling that he lacked the authority to compel its owner, Cinemark USA, to allow anyone inside.

The motions for access to the crime scene and investigative materials were filed by three people wounded in the July 20 massacre that killed 12 people and left 58 others wounded.

The victims want access to arrest warrant affidavits and 911 emergency calls. The victims have sued Cinemark in Denver federal court, saying the theater chain had lax security, and were aware of a previous shooting incident at the theater.

Holmes's public defenders wrote that releasing the information now would jeopardize Holmes' right to a fair jury trial "because of the sensitive nature of the information involved and the intense public scrutiny."

While noting that they are mindful of their obligation to consult with crime victims, prosecutors agreed that the motion should be denied to preserve "the integrity of the investigation."

In a filing seeking dismissal of the suit, lawyers for Texas-based Cinemark said that even if employees were aware of a prior shooting incident "such an event would be insufficient to make a madman's mass murder foreseeable."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

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