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Colorado theater massacre lawyers seek to exclude suspect's emails

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Defense lawyers trying to whittle away at what evidence may be used in the murder trial of accused Colorado theater massacre gunman James Holmes argued on Friday that information gleaned from personal and school email accounts should be excluded.

The lawyers argued that affidavits submitted to support court orders compelling Microsoft, Google and the University of Colorado, where Holmes had been a neuroscience graduate student, to produce the emails were too broad and lacked even date ranges.

"There are many ways they could have limited them, but they didn't," public defender Kristen Nelson said. "Case law says they have to articulate why the search warrants are so broad."

Homicide Detective Tom Welton, who drafted the affidavits, testified that investigators were conducting a wide-ranging probe about a mass murder, including possible accomplices or plans, and had no idea when the plot was hatched.

Friday's proceeding was the latest legal skirmish in the pretrial hearings on defense motions to preclude evidence from the upcoming high profile trial, which is scheduled to start in February.

Holmes, 25, is accused of opening fire inside a cinema in the Denver suburb of Aurora in July 2012 during a midnight screening of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises." The shooting left 12 moviegoers dead, and 70 others injured.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the California native, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

In wrangling over the emails, defense lawyers also argued that some of the court orders did not match the email addresses that were listed on the affidavits.

Prosecutor Karen Pearson countered that the errors were "at most technical violations" that do not rise to the level of violating Holmes' due process rights.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge Carlos Samour Jr. has not indicated when he will rule on the suppression motions.

Another series of pretrial hearings are scheduled for next week, centering on more defense motions to toss evidence seized from Holmes' apartment, bank accounts and cell phone records.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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