Triple murder suspect Chris Watts has unsuccessfully sought to keep secret all of his visitors while behind bars, PEOPLE confirms.
Judge Marcelo A. Kopcow on Monday ruled against a motion from Watts’ attorney that requested sheriff’s officials be barred “from disclosing any information” about visits to him in Colorado’s Weld County Jail.
Watts, 33, has been held there since his arrest last month in the slayings of his pregnant wife, Shan’ann Watts, and their two young daughters, all of whom were missing for several days before their bodies were found at an oil work site.
It was not immediately clear why Chris’ attorney argued for the secrecy of his jail visitors, but the judge’s ruling mentioned experts consulting with the defense. The original motion has not been publicly released.
Echoing the judge’s ruling, a legal expert unconnected with the case explains that Chris’ attorney likely wanted to shield the defense’s work from the prosecution. Otherwise, prosecutors would have been able to track the comings and goings of possible expert witnesses such as psychiatrists.
“If I as a D.A. know who’s interviewing the defendant, then I get a head start on finding out who it is … knowing what their angle is,” says Ambrosio Rodriguez, a former California prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney.
Kopcow denied Watts’ request but set forth a narrower solution, acknowledging the “confidentiality and loyalty” of those who work with defense attorneys is a “crucial element” in effective legal representation.
He ordered the visit logs kept from prosecutors. Instead he instructed that the prosecution move to review the logs as necessary with the defense being able to seek redactions.
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Among other pretrial disputes in the case — including an unresolved question about obtaining Chris’ DNA and fingerprints — Chris’ defense has repeatedly argued that the government should investigate reported leaks from sources with knowledge of the investigation, including in articles published by PEOPLE.
“These … statements have the effect of irretrievably tainting the potential jury pool, violating Mr. Watts’ rights to a fair and impartial jury, and undermining the fundamental fairness of these proceedings,” his attorney contended.
The judge twice denied the request, saying it was beyond the scope of his legal authority.
Chris is charged with first-degree murder, among other crimes, in the deaths of 34-year-old Shan’ann and kids Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3.
Neither causes of death nor motive have been confirmed and prosecutors have asked to keep the autopsies from being made public, saying they provide “critical evidence” that should be held for trial.
Chris was taken into custody late on Aug. 15, two days after his family vanished and a day after he gave multiple TV interviews pleading for their return.
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Authorities say they found otherwise and accused Chris of murdering his family.
He has not yet entered a plea and is due to return to court in November.
His public defender is forbidden by office policy from commenting on the case.