Survey: Aurora theater shooting victims high on praise for prosecutors, advocates handling case

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AURORA | Victims of the Aurora theater shooting largely praised prosecutors, police and victim advocates who handled the case in a survey released this week.

The Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office sent the 103-question survey to the more than 1,100 named victims, a group that includes families of the deceased as well as those injured in the attack four years ago. 

More than 160 people replied to the survey, the DA’s office said, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. 

Every response said they were treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect” by prosecutors, and 99 percent of the respondents said the DA’s office was responsive to them, according to a statement from prosecutors. 

District Attorney George Brauchler said the responses were a testament to the work of prosecutors and police.

“Our job is to seek justice. To achieve justice, we must and we will continue to make treating victims with dignity and respect our touchstones. I am extremely proud of my staff and the way that they were able to do that,” he said in the statement.

The survey also asked the victims about Judge Carlos Samour Jr.’s decision to allow a video camera to broadcast the trial. While he didn’t allow still cameras or TV news cameras in the courtroom, Samour allowed the trial to be broadcast live via a security camera in the courtroom. Several media outlets streamed the trial live online.

More than half the victims who responded — 54 percent — said having the trial televised was helpful or somewhat helpful. 

One positive response said having the trial aired was good because it helped shine a light on what happened that night. 

“I think it was helpful because it informed the nation of the trial and the justice that was going to be served,” one survey respondent wrote. “The entire world was bombarded with pictures, updates and information about the crime, but I am grateful they were able to hear the complete story all the way up until the sentencing phase.” 

Others were more critical of the move. 

“This is a HUGE mistake — all the data shows that in this type of trial it leads to copy cats,” another person wrote.

The survey also asked victims for their thoughts on the defense team, and many were critical of the lawyers from the public defender’s office. 

“Although I know they were just doing what they were supposed to, it was hard not to take a dislike to them. I did however think that they did their best for their client,” one person wrote. 

Another was more harsh. 

“The one thing that I found intolerable was them smiling and laughing with the defendant. There is NOTHING funny about any of this and it was very disrespectful,” another said. 

As some victims were when they spoke publicly at sentencing, many in the surveys were critical of how long it took for officials to notify the families of the deceased in the hours following the attack. 

“Eighteen or 19 hours with no information was just plain cruel,” one person wrote of the time it took to be notified late on July 12, 2012.

Arapahoe County Coroner Kelly Lear-Kaul said after the trial that the coroner’s office waited to notify the families until all 12 victims had been identified. If she is faced with a similar mass tragedy in the future, Lear-Kaul said her office would likely notify families as soon as they identify the deceased. That wouldn’t mean every family would get word sooner, but some would, she said.

The survey also asked the families what could be done differently, and many were pessimistic about the whether similar attacks could be stopped. 

“Unfortunately nothing,” one person wrote. “Random acts will continue to occur.”