Broadcasters argue for public release of theater shooting response report under CORA

Update: On Thursday, Aug. 21, Judge Collins ordered the release of a redacted version of the report that includes all information discussing how police, fire and other agencies responded to the shooting. The report won’t be released for 21 days to give the city of Aurora a chance to appeal. A story by 9NEWS is here.

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

A consortium of broadcast media organizations contended Tuesday that an outside review of Aurora’s emergency response to the July 2012 theater shooting should be made public.

The group of Denver TV stations and KOA-AM radio asked an Arapahoe County District Court judge for permission to make an argument that the report by TriData, commissioned by Aurora and completed in April, must be released under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA).

“Because the report is not subject to any mandatory non-disclosure provision of the CORA or any other state statute, court rule or order, it must be released in its entirety,” says the broadcasters’ motion. Even if the court were to find that disclosure of portions involving defendant James Holmes would cause “substantial injury to the public interest,” that shouldn’t bar the release of other parts of the report discussing the response of Aurora police, fire and other agencies, the motion adds.

During a hearing last Thursday before Judge Stephen Collins, both prosecutors and one of Holmes’ public defenders contended that the $250,000 report should stay sealed for now. Because no media organizations were present at that hearing, “no party asserted ‘the public’s right to know,’ which is at the heart of the Colorado Open Records Act,” the broadcasters’ motion argues.

Aurora city officials have cited a gag order in the Holmes case as a reason not to make the report public. The defense said its release would jeopardize Holmes’ right to a fair trial, while prosecutors labeled the report a criminal justice record that shouldn’t be released until the trial is over. Collins said last week he would issue a written decision.

In addition to KOA-AM 850 radio, the television broadcasters filing the motion Tuesday included: KCEC-TV, Channel 50; KCNC-TV, Channel 4; KDEN-TV, Channel 25; KDVR-TV, Channel 31; KMGH-TV, Channel 7; KUSA-TV, Channel 9; and KWGN-TV, Channel 2. They are represented by attorney Steve Zansberg, president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

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