WTF George Brauchler? Judge Admonishes Arapahoe D.A. for Tweeting in Court During Aurora Theater Shooting Trial

7News-Brauchler-Tweet

 

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler is overseeing the prosecution in the Aurora Theater Shooting Trial. Brauchler is also increasingly being mentioned as a potential Republican Senate candidate in 2016, so maybe he is feeling like he needs to raise his name ID or something. But wow — Brauchler really fumbled the ball yesterday afternoon in court.

“If you’re bored, and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you’re welcome to leave.”
     – Judge Samour

As multiple media outlets are reporting, Brauchler Tweeted about the trial yesterday afternoon during the cross-examination of a key witness for the prosecution. As Fox 31 reports:

In a decision before court began Friday, the judge on the theater shooting trial ruled to prohibit attorneys from texting and tweeting during court.

The decision came after defense attorney Tamara Brady brought up a Tweet from George Brauchler, the Arapahoe County District Attorney, sent during court proceedings Thursday.

At the time, defense attorney Daniel King was in the middle of cross-examining Dr. William Reid, the court-appointed psychiatrist who conducted a mental health evaluation of James Holmes and diagnosed him with Schizotypal Personality Disorder.

“If the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man, perhaps the District Attorney should pay attention to the cross-examination of a mental health expert instead of chatting on social media,” said Brady.

“If the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man, perhaps the District Attorney should pay attention to the cross-examination of a mental health expert instead of chatting on social media.”
– Attorney Tamara Brady

Brauchler apologized for the incident (sort of) by saying that he thought he was responding to a text message and hadn’t realized he had sent out a Tweet. He claims that he deleted the Tweet after court adjourned on Thursday, but as defense attorney Tamara Brady pointed out (with her voice cracking with emotion) Brauchler’s message was re-tweeted at least three times before it was deleted. Needless to say, Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour was not pleased with Brauchler. You can watch the video here, and we’ve transcribed the entire exchange after the jump, but here’s what Judge Samour had to say:

It was about four weeks ago, and I specifically said that I don’t want anyone sending tweets from the courtroom about anything, but obviously much less about the case…

…I have prohibited the media from tweeting from the courtroom. I didn’t think it was appropriate for attorneys to be doing it, especially when proceedings are ongoing. We’re not even talking about during breaks – but during actual courtroom proceedings. There’s nothing that can’t wait until a break or until after court to be tweeted.

I don’t have any reason to doubt Mr. Brauchler and so I am going to take him on his word that this was an accident…and an inadvertent mistake. But even texting is something that really should wait until the proceedings are not ongoing. I don’t know why email or text can’t wait until a break, especially when it is your witness who is testifying and being cross-examined. I am going to prohibit the parties from texting from the courtroom during the proceedings.

If you’re bored, and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you’re welcome to leave…out of respect for the court, when you’re in here, you should not be texting or tweeting or anything like that. You should be paying attention to what’s happening in here. [Pols emphasis]

Arapahoe County D.A. George Brauchler (far left) is reprimanded by Judge Carlos Samour in court this morning.

Arapahoe County D.A. George Brauchler (far left) is reprimanded by Judge Carlos Samour in court Friday morning.

Ouch! Maybe it was an accident; maybe not. But as Judge Samour points out, there is no reason for Brauchler to be chatting about the case via text message or social media — particularly when court is in session. Furthermore, Judge Samour had already banned Tweeting from the courtroom several weeks earlier.

It remains to be seen whether Brauchler’s ill-advised Tweet will have any impact on the outcome of the trial, but the message was marked as an official court exhibit.

Aurora Theater Shooting Trial
Courtroom Exchange: June 5, 2015

DEFENSE ATTORNEY TAMARA BRADY:  It came to our attention last night that Mr. Brauchler issued a tweet at 4:51 pm which would have been during the cross-examination of Dr. Reid. If I can approach I’d like to give the court a copy of that tweet…

…If we could mark that as a court’s exhibit, please.

 JUDGE CARLOS SAMOUR: Yes

BRADY: Your honor, I assume the court issued this order for a good reason, so I will leave it up to the court’s disrection what sanction to impose for this violation. I would state that if the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man, perhaps the District Attorney should pay attention to the cross-examination of a mental health expert instead of chatting on social media. [Pols emphasis]

JUDGE: Do you want to read for the record what the tweet states?

BRADY: It states on June 4, 2015 at 4:51 pm: “I agree on the video. I hope the jury thinks so, too.”

JUDGE: Mr. Brauchler?

ARAPAHOE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY GEORGE BRAUCHLER: First, I want to apologize for how this happened but I want to explain that I was not on social media at the time. I’m not sure…how it all connects, but I got a text – it was from a direct message. This has happened to me accidentally before. Someone had just simply made a comment that I thought I was replying to on text. As soon as we left court, Mr. Orman told me that, hey, that reply went out all over Twitter. And I quickly deleted it, and it doesn’t exist anymore. I think it was on there for less than 20 minutes.

Having said that…again, I was not attempting to be on social media or do anything on social media, and I haven’t violated the court’s order since it came up.

But having said that, the steps that I’ve taken are to turn off my phones and just instruct people that if I need to do any business while I’m in court, they would let me know through other means. Um, and judge, it’s an embarrassing mistake but one that I think I corrected quickly and have put myself in a position to not violate it again. I’m sorry.

BRADY: Before the correction, it was re-tweeted at least three times. We found at least three times that that tweet went out from other people. As the court knows, once it gets out there it spreads exponentially. Dr. Reid was a pretty important witness, and the prosecution should be paying attention to the cross-examination of the witness.

JUDGE: That’s the problem with tweeting something – you don’t know who is going to re-tweet it…

 …It was about four weeks ago, and I specifically said that I don’t want anyone sending tweets from the courtroom about anything, but obviously much less about the case… [Pols emphasis]

 …I have prohibited the media from tweeting from the courtroom. I didn’t think it was appropriate for attorneys to be doing it, especially when proceedings are ongoing. We’re not even talking about during breaks – but during actual courtroom proceedings. There’s nothing that can’t wait until a break or until after court to be tweeted.

I don’t have any reason to doubt Mr. Brauchler and so I am going to take him on his word that this was an accident…and an inadvertent mistake. But even texting is something that really should wait until the proceedings are not ongoing. I don’t know why email or text can’t wait until a break, especially when it is your witness who is testifying and being cross-examined. I am going to prohibit the parties from texting from the courtroom during the proceedings.

If you’re bored, and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you’re welcome to leave…out of respect for the court, when you’re in here, you should not be texting or tweeting or anything like that. You should be paying attention to what’s happening in here.

We’ve marked the communication as a court exhibit.

 

 

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    It's disturbing that Brauchler thinks it's only a problem if it involves social media and that it never occurred to him before he was called out that texting about the case, or anything else, in response to an individual while a key witness is being cross examined is hardly appropriate behavior for the DA or anyone involved in such a serious trial regardless of whether the tweeting part of it was accidental or not. It's also disheartening that he takes the view that since the order was about social media texting would have been perfectly fine and since he wasn't "attempting" to use social media even though "I’m not sure…how it all connects, but I got a text – it was from a direct message. This has happened to me accidentally before (my emphasis)", it should technically be OK? So in his excuse he admits he's screwed this up before but that didn't stop him from doing the same thing again when he knows the same mistake would put him in violation? That makes it not a violation? Huh? I've heard better excuses from 12 year olds.

     

    • Davie says:

      Since Brauchler wasn't even listening to his opposing counsel's cross examination of his star witness, it also indicates an incredible amount of arrogance on his part.

      The same arrogance and ambition that would compel his decision to refuse to accept a guilty plea with no chance of parole over spending millions of taxpayer's dollars and decades of appeals to gain the glory of a high profile death penalty conviction. 

      What's the big deal with denying victims and families closure, extending this case for decades when there is fame to be had, higher offices to be won, and power to be wielded?

      • Davie says:

        I just realized the term that describes Brauchler — He's a glory whore.

        • BlueCat says:

          The explanation many prosecutors give for why they need the death penalty is that it's a bargaining chip they need to get just what the defense offered… a plea deal for life without parole. Glory whore seems as good an explanation as any for why Brauchler rejected it. Many prosecutors have gone on to high office on the basis of a highly publicized record of putting the bad guys away. Looks like Brauchler preferred a really high profile big trial to boost his career over a mere life without parole deal. Probably should have avoided behaving like a moron while basking in the national spotlight. 

          • MichaelBowman says:

            He claims it was a mistake, that he was texting, yet he ended with a hashtag (#theatershooting)? Interesting dodge, Mr. D.A. 

            • FrankUnderwood says:

              Maybe it was a really unusual butt call.

              Republican politicians have so many dificulties with technology. Some of us are old enough to remember that last great Republican contortionist, Rosemary Woods, who was able to keep one foot on the pedal to her dictation machine (anyone born after 1975 will need to Google that term), hold one finger down on the record button and one finger on the play button on her reel-to-reel tape recorder (you may wish to Google that term too), while typing and answering the telephone for President Nixon.

            • MichaelBowman says:

              Apparently Judge Samour isn't 'up' on the whole texting thing, otherwise the hashtag would have been more than enough to indicate that Brauchler was lying through his teeth…

    • marklane1351 says:

      If you are observing a case, put your phone on silent. If you are trying a case put your phone away!

  2. notaskinnycook says:

    I'm going to be supremely pissed if stupid stunts like this cause a not guilty verdict or the judge to declare a mistrial. I've mentioned before that I have a couple of dogs in this fight. Our nephew would have been there with a group of friends had he not been scheduled to work the following day. One of his friends was killed. To put the cherry on it, it happened on our anniversary. Brauchler damn well knows better, that was pure arrogance on his part and I hope the judge nails him for contempt the next time.

    • BlueCat says:

      So sorry. And before Modster has a chance there's a story in the Post that also mentions defense attorney King stepping out to take a call at one point during testimony. So yeah, Johnny does it too and he's also guilty of inexcusable behavior. Fortunately King is not an elected official with the same degree of influence in this case as that of the DA, not that that makes it any less irresponsible and offensive.

      We have obviously become way too addicted to the need for constant and instant blathering on our various devices and platforms if the DA and other lawyers involved can't be bothered to give the live, in person proceedings in a death penalty mass murder case their undivided attention between breaks. Maybe they could practice civilized adult behavior by having dinner with their families once in a while with all devices turned off to give half an hour's worth of undivided attention to their loved ones while modeling common courtesy for their kids. It would be a start.

    • gaf says:

      Brauchler's really stupid stunt was to go for the death penalty to prove his manhood for future political office rather than accept the life without parole deal that was offered. That would have avoided this whole circus so far, and the circus that will likely play on for decades if he gets a death sentence.

  3. mamajama55 says:

    What BC said. I'm as guilty as anyone. The only cure is to turn the damn thing off and keep it off until the session is over. If it's on silent or vibrate, the temptation is still to take it out and check it.

    My favorite County Clerk/voting rights hero, Gilbert Ortiz, and Senate 19 hero Evie Hudak also got nailed for using social media during sessions. It's pretty common these days.

    • BlueCat says:

      Amazing how we all got along just fine up until not that many years ago without being constantly plugged in.  I will say my family just isn't like that and neither are my closest friends.  When we get together with the kids (adult "kids") we all actually talk to each other and nobody touches their devices while we're enjoying a meal together and then never spends more than a few seconds on a quick check or two as long as we're hanging out. Same with our friends. And none of us ever made any rules about that. We just like being with the people we're with, in person.  It saddens me to see young people together all texting without talking to each other or families at restaurants who may as well be on separate planets.

      It's nice to be able to be in touch with old an out of state friends so easily over social media and have regular contact with people we might have called rarely or lost touch with completely in the not really all that old days, but it's a shame what it's doing to live, close personal contact and socializing and to what was once considered basic common courtesy, not to mention professionalism.

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