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Published: Saturday, 7/28/2012

Psychiatrist treating suspect, papers show

BLADE NEWS SERVICES
James Holmes, in custody in the attack, is expected to use an insanity defense. James Holmes, in custody in the attack, is expected to use an insanity defense.
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AURORA, Colo. -- The suspect in the Colorado movie theater rampage that left 12 people dead and dozens wounded was seeing a University of Colorado psychiatrist who studies schizophrenia, according to court records released Friday.

James Holmes was a patient of Dr. Lynne Fenton, the medical director of student mental health services at the university, according to court papers filed by his defense team.

Mr. Holmes withdrew from a PhD program in neuroscience after taking oral exams in early June.

According to the court documents, Mr. Holmes, 24, had sent a package to Dr. Fenton, whose research interests include psychotherapy and the neurobiology of schizophrenia.

The package was seized by police after a search warrant was executed Monday.

The package contained "communications" from Mr. Holmes to Dr. Fenton and should be shielded from public view, according to the defense attorneys' court filings. No other specifics were given in the filings.

The motion did not reveal when Mr. Holmes began seeing Dr. Fenton nor whether he was being treated for a mental illness.

Legal analysts expect Mr. Holmes' attorneys to use an insanity defense at trial.

The sun rises over crosses erected in honor of the victims of the deadly shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. A gunman opened fire July 20, killing 12 and wounding 58. Lawyers say communications from the suspect were leaked to the media. The sun rises over crosses erected in honor of the victims of the deadly shootings at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. A gunman opened fire July 20, killing 12 and wounding 58. Lawyers say communications from the suspect were leaked to the media.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

In the filings, Mr. Holmes' lawyers say that, after law enforcement seized the package, someone leaked information about it to the media -- including allegations that Mr. Holmes had alerted law enforcement about the package.

The release of such information violated a blanket gag order issued by the judge in the case, the lawyers say.

"The government's disclosure of this confidential and privileged information has placed Mr. Holmes' constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by an impartial jury at serious jeopardy," they wrote.

Dr. Fenton did not return calls on Friday.

Mr. Holmes' lawyers demanded access to the materials seized from the university, the names of the investigators involved in testing the package for explosives, the chain of custody of the package, and specifics related to the questioning of Mr. Holmes about the package and the potential leaking of information.

Carol Chambers, Arapahoe County district attorney, filed a motion in response asking the judge to deny the public defenders' request.

She denied that any information was leaked, noting as evidence the inaccuracy of media reports, in particular Fox News, which broke the story of the notebook's discovery and seizure.

"Whoever provided information to Fox News, if anyone, did not actually have knowledge of the facts of the case," Ms. Chambers wrote.

"The Fox News story stated that the FBI took possession of the packages and its contents -- this is incorrect, as it was the Aurora Police Department," she wrote.

"The NBCNEWS.com story indicated that the Aurora Police Department had obtained two search warrants, one for the package itself and a second one for its contents. This is not correct, as the Aurora Police Department obtained only one search warrant."

Ms. Chambers dismissed the report that Mr. Holmes had alerted investigators to the package as "just another inaccurate media report floating adrift in a sea of inaccurate media reports relating to this case."

She noted that other media have erroneously reported that investigators opened the package and examined the contents when, in fact, they remained "secured and not examined," awaiting officials' review.

The investigators demanded a hearing, which District Judge William Sylvester granted, according to an order posted Friday.

The hearing will begin Monday morning at the district court in Centennial, Colo.

Mr. Holmes already was expected to be in court that day to face charges in the shooting.

In the 60 days leading up to the shooting, Mr. Holmes bought four guns legally at local gun shops, law enforcement officials have said.

He also bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet.

Merely seeing a psychiatrist, even for a serious case of mental illness, would not prompt any of the safeguards for gun purchases, which are governed by federal law, said Daniel Gross, president of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

"There are no federal restrictions on the purchase of firearms for the mentally ill unless the person has been adjudicated by a court as being dangerously mentally ill," he said.

When a court rules that a person is dangerously mentally ill, he said, the records should then be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the potential buyer would be classified as a prohibited purchaser -- along with felons, domestic abusers, and others.

States can impose more restrictions; Colorado does not.



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