A Colorado judge has ruled that the media won’t be able to take pictures of James Holmes, the man accused of gunning down innocent moviegoers at the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado last week, when Holmes appears for a hearing in his criminal case next week.
The judge denied the media’s request for expanded coverage and instead ruled that cameras will be barred from the hearing at which Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people and wounding another 58 in a carefully premeditated, unprovoked attack, will be formally charged with his crimes. His lawyers had objected to the media’s request. Some of the families of the victims also objected to the media printing Holmes’ name and photo.
I respect the wishes of the victims and their families, but I disagree with them. Holmes will be charged with horrific crimes — crimes that have shaken and touched the nation. He will be tried in a public forum, in a proceeding that naturally is of intense interest to the people of Colorado specifically and the American people generally. Why shouldn’t the media be able to discreetly take photos of the hearing, given the long-established right of public access to criminal proceedings?
No one is advocating that the news media be allowed to convert the proceedings into a circus, but the days of the Sam Sheppard case are long since over, and many criminal trials have been broadcast in recent years without disturbing the dignity and solemnity of criminal proceedings. The judge in this case should follow those examples. Americans have a right to see Holmes as he confronts his accusers and deals with the consequences of the terrible actions for which he stands accused.