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Reporter denied access to notebook in Colorado theater shooting case

James Holmes and his defense attorney Daniel King sit in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial
James Holmes and his defense attorney Daniel King sit in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A Colorado judge denied a request by a Fox News journalist on Friday to view a notebook accused movie theater gunman James Holmes sent to his psychiatrist that reportedly detailed his plans to commit mass murder.

New York-based reporter Jana Winter had sought access to the notebook as she fights subpoenas seeking to force her to divulge confidential sources that she used in a story about its contents while a court-imposed gag order was in place.

Holmes, 25, is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for a barrage of gunfire on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead and 58 others wounded during a midnight screening of the Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises." A dozen others suffered non-gunshot injuries in the ensuing pandemonium.

The former doctoral student of neuroscience has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, and prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty if Holmes is convicted.

Winter's story, which cited two law enforcement sources, appeared five days after the shooting. Holmes' public defenders have pushed to have Winter reveal her sources, which they say compromised their client's right to a fair trial.

Winter's attorneys had said in court filings she would not report on the notebook's contents if she were allowed to view it, but wanted access to evaluate how critical the content would be to the case against Holmes.

But Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour Jr. said it would be "the height of irony" to allow Winter access to the notebook.

"The requested inspection, in essence, would give Winter exclusive media coverage of the contents of the notebook," Samour wrote. "The Court will not allow such a perverse result."

At an earlier hearing, several police and bomb technicians who saw the package containing the notebook denied under oath that they were Winter's sources.

But Samour did say that if Winter were to state under oath - without revealing her sources - that none of the officers who previously testified were the source of the story, that could impact his decision on whether to quash the subpoena.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

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