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Prosecutors in Colorado theatre shootings hint they may want to search for additional evidence

DENVER - Prosecutors in the Colorado theatre shooting case hinted they may want to search for additional evidence or look for more documents, although they aren't publicly saying why.

In a motion filed Friday and released Monday, prosecutors asked Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr. to keep secret any future requests they might make for search warrants or for court orders to produce records.

The motion did not say whether prosecutors plan to make any such requests. But it said the investigation into the massacre is still underway, and "new leads and investigative avenues arise from time to time."

Prosecutors and the defence routinely refuse to discuss the case, citing a gag order.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for 26-year-old James Holmes, who is charged with multiple counts of murder and attempted murder in the July 2012 attack in the Denver suburb of Aurora. More than 400 people were in the theatre, watching a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," and 12 were killed. Seventy were wounded, either by gunfire or in the scramble to escape.

Holmes pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His attorneys have acknowledged he was the shooter but said in a court filing he was "in the throes of a psychotic episode."

His trial is scheduled to start in October, more than two years after the massacre, but prosecutors and the defence continue to wrangle over crucial issues. Most recently, defence lawyers asked for a change of venue and also said they would ask the state Supreme Court to overturn Samour's order that Holmes undergo a second sanity evaluation.

Holmes, who dropped out of a neuroscience graduate program at the University of Colorado-Denver shortly before the shootings, underwent a mandatory evaluation at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo last summer. The key conclusions haven't been made public, but prosecutors requested a second evaluation, saying the doctor who oversaw the first one was biased.

After a hearing in late January that was closed to the public and the media, Samour ruled the first exam was inadequate and ordered the second.

Defence lawyers argue that Samour's order is not justified. Samour gave them until May 5 to file an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

Under Colorado law, jurors will decide whether Holmes was legally insane — unable to tell right from wrong — but the conclusion of the mandatory evaluation will be a key piece of evidence.

In their motion about possible future search warrants, prosecutors asked Samour to allow them to make their requests to other judges. They said such requests are often made verbally, and they want to avoid the appearance of having a private conversation with the presiding judge, without defence lawyers present.

Separately, attorneys for New York-based Fox News reporter Jana Winter asked the U.S. Supreme Court not to step into a legal battle over whether she should have to identify her confidential sources for a story she wrote about Holmes.

New York's highest court ruled Winter is protected by New York's reporter shield law. Holmes' lawyers want the U.S. Supreme Court to review that decision.

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Follow Dan Elliott at http://twitter.com/DanElliottAP

The Canadian Press


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