LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Members of a state committee failed to agree Friday on whether Colorado’s corrections agency violated victims’ rights by refusing to reveal where the Aurora theater shooter is serving his life sentence.
The six members deadlocked in a vote on a motion to determine victims’ rights were violated, and the motion therefore failed. One committee member was absent.
“It’s not fair,” said Theresa Hoover, whose 18-year-old son, A.J. Boik, was among the 12 killed when James Holmes opened fire in 2012 at the suburban Denver movie theater. Seventy others were injured in the attack.
Hoover led efforts by several survivors to find out where prison officials transferred Holmes in January after another inmate attacked him. State officials initially told Hoover and others only that Holmes was transferred out of state and secrecy had to be maintained for safety and security concerns.
It was publicly revealed for the first time during Friday’s meeting that the prisons department told board members Holmes is being held under the highest security and can receive visitors.
Prosecutor Rich Orman, who was on the team that secured Holmes’ conviction, was visibly angered by the meeting’s outcome. Afterward, he pulled a large sign from a car. It displayed the faces of infamous killers such as Charles Manson and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski under the caption: “We know exactly where all these guys are. Why is the theater shooter different?”
Orman, standing next to the sign downstairs from the hearing room, told reporters it was outrageous for the Colorado Corrections Department to maintain it could not keep Holmes safe in the state.
In a statement emailed to the AP, prisons spokeswoman Laurie Kilpatrick said her department had to protect the public, its staff and inmates. Friday’s vote, she said, “reflects an understanding of these legal obligations.”
Hoover told the AP that victims may now go to court to try to force the prisons department to disclose where Holmes is. Orman said he also might go to court.
The volunteer board members who voted Friday included a judge, a sheriff and victim advocates like Kate Horn-Murphy. During their discussions, Horn-Murphy said the prison department told victims about Holmes’ transfer in brief and jargon-filled messages.
That, she said, violated their legal right to be treated with respect and dignity, prompting the board to ask the department to respond to that charge. Another hearing will be held on that issue, likely toward the end of the summer.
In her statement, the prisons spokeswoman said her agency “will work cooperatively with the victims rights subcommittee moving forward after the meeting.”
Kilpatrick added the department “is sensitive to the victims of all crimes and their need to know that offenders incarcerated in the Department of Corrections are appropriately serving the sentences imposed by the court.”