DENVER — A Fox News journalist was due back in a Colorado court on Monday to fight efforts by defense lawyers to compel her to divulge confidential sources she cited in a story about accused movie theater gunman James Holmes’ plans to commit mass murder.
The hearing is largely procedural in nature, with Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. expected to continue a subpoena for New York-based reporter Jana Winter until September.
Public defenders have accused the government of leaking information to Winter in violation of a court-imposed gag order in place at the time and are demanding that prosecutors be sanctioned, arguing that her article, published online on FoxNews.com, undermined their client’s right to a fair trial.
Holmes’ defense obtained the subpoena in a bid to force Winter to reveal her sources. Winter is fighting the subpoena, saying she is protected by Colorado and New York state reporter shield laws.
Holmes, 25, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for the July 2012 shooting spree at a suburban Denver cinema that left 12 moviegoers dead and dozens others wounded or injured during a midnight screening of the Batman film “A Dark Knight Rises.”
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty if the former University of Colorado neuroscience graduate student is convicted.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers have said in court filings that the California native was “in the throes of a psychotic episode” when he went on the shooting spree.
Citing unnamed law enforcement officials in a story published five days after the massacre, Winter reported that Holmes had mailed a package to his psychiatrist in advance that contained a notebook with diagrams and other entries detailing plans for the shooting rampage.
Holmes is undergoing a psychiatric examination at the state’s mental hospital, and his lawyers waived his right to appear at Monday’s proceeding.
At an earlier court hearing, several law enforcement officers who saw the package in question denied under oath that they were Winter’s sources.
Samour did rule that if Winter were to affirm under oath — without revealing her sources — that none of the officers who testified were the source, that could influence his decision on whether to quash the subpoena.
Prosecutors have been largely been silent on the issue.