Colorado Shooter James Holmes Trial Faces Difficult Choices

by tylercook on January 14, 2013

  • Sharebar

The heinous nature of the July 20th 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting during the midnight screening of the film The Dark Knight has generated considerable national public interest. It has brought to the forefront the ongoing dilemma regarding conflict between the freedom of the press and the rights of the accused. Rights afforded to James Holmes, the accused shooter, are derived from the Sixth Amendment, which gives the defendant the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteeing the right of due process.

Balancing Public Interest and Individual Rights
The Sixth Amendment protects the accused, through the process of a public trial, from the risks of persecution and ensures a fair trial under the scrutiny of the public eye. Society benefits from an open judicial process and has an interest in how the law is applied and what precedents are being established. The public also has an interest in observing that constitutional rights are upheld.

In addition to the practical and necessary scrutiny of the public, the issue regarding the satisfaction of justice and the mitigation of societal outrage over heinous criminal acts is a legitimate goal of public trials. Further, maintaining public trust and confidence in the judicial system is served and is of utmost concern if the rule of law is to be respected.

First Amendment Conflicts
The conflict with the First Amendment rights of the press arises when the exercise of that right deprives a defendant of their rights to a fair trial by an impartial jury. In high profile cases, it is often debated whether or not the press is damaging or infringing upon the rights of the accused. This question may be presented to a judge by the defendant’s counsel and the prosecution.

The 1980 Supreme Court case of Richmond Newspaper, Inc v. Virginia, reversed a lower court’s restriction on the newspaper’s access to a criminal trial. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger affirmed that the right of the public and the press to attend criminal trials is guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendment.

Although it is affirmed by the Supreme Court that trials must be open to the press and the public, additional court proceedings, particularly pre-trial hearings regarding the suppression of evidence, are also at risk of compromising defendant’s rights if inadmissible evidence is made public. A judge may and sometimes does restrict access by the press to pretrial hearings in some circumstances. However it is possible that the press may bring an action against the court to have that decision reversed. In some pretrial hearings, a judge may regard closure as necessary in order to protect third parties or dissemination of inadmissible evidence into the public realm. In the 1979 case, Gannett v. DePasquale, the Supreme Court ruled that the closure of pretrial hearings may be necessary to protect the rights of the defendant to a fair trial.

The difficult decisions regarding the First Amendment rights of the press versus the rights of James Holmes to a fair trial will continue to concern the court throughout the trial. The suppression of evidence by the court may be something that will arise even as the trial commences. The issue of doctor-patient confidentiality may be an issue as evidence is presented. The impartiality of a jury must be safeguarded in order to ensure a fair trial for James Holmes. James Holmes is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder, and weapons charges.

Finding a competent criminal defense lawyer is important for anyone going to trial. It is important to defend your right to a fair trial no matter what the case is for. A good defense attorney will represent your interests in court the best.





Latest posts by tylercook (see all)

No related posts.

Previous post:

Next post: