Defense: Shooting suspect was seeing psychiatrist
Saturday, July 28, 2012
DENVER (AP) — The former graduate student accused in the deadly Colorado movie theater shooting was being treated by a psychiatrist at the university where he studied, a revelation that adds to suspicions his life was in turmoil in the year before the rampage.
Attorneys for James Holmes, 24, made the disclosure in a court motion Friday as they sought to discover the source of leaks to some media outlets that he sent the psychiatrist a package containing a notebook with descriptions of an attack.
The motion said the leak jeopardized Holmes’ right to a fair trial and violated a judge’s gag order.
The lawyers added that the package contained communications between Holmes and his psychiatrist that should be shielded from public view. The document describes Holmes as a “psychiatric patient” of Dr. Lynne Fenton.
The motion did not reveal when Holmes began seeing Fenton or whether he was being treated for a mental illness. Legal analysts expect Holmes’ attorneys to use an insanity defense at trial. Holmes is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Calls to Holmes’ lawyer and the state public defender’s office were not immediately returned, as was a message left with Fenton’s office. The University of Colorado’s website identifies her as the medical director of the school’s Student Mental Health Services.
A spokeswoman for the Arapahoe County prosecutor’s office declined comment.
In the week since the attack, few details have emerged about Holmes’ life since June 2011, when he enrolled in a prestigious doctoral program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz medical campus. He left without explanation in June.
University officials have refused to disclose much more about Holmes, citing an order from the judge barring it from releasing information that would “impede an ongoing investigation.” Staff, professors and classmates have been mum about his life at the school.
Holmes’ appearance at his first court hearing on Monday stunned the victims’ families and fueled speculation about the state of his mental health. His hair dyed a shocking comic-book shade of orange-red, he looked sleepy and, at times, inattentive.
Prosecutors said they didn’t know if he was being medicated.
The motion Friday, however, was the first confirmation from the defense that Holmes was seeing a psychiatrist and that he had sent a package to the doctor.
The package was seized by authorities on Monday after it was discovered in the mailroom at the university. It’s unclear if it was sent before the attack at the July 20 midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” that left 12 dead and dozens of others injured.
Authorities said Holmes legally purchased four guns before the attack at Denver-area sporting goods stores — a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and two pistols. To buy the guns, Holmes had to pass background checks that can take as little as 20 minutes in Colorado.
Federal law bars from purchasing firearms people who have been found mentally defective by a judge or who have been committed to a mental health institution, said Benjamin Van Houten of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
States can impose additional restrictions, but Colorado does not.
“That is why it’s important for states to look at going beyond federal law in this area,” Van Houten said.
Holmes spent a year in the university’s intimate, competitive neuroscience program before dropping out three days after taking a year-end final, university officials have said.
At a press conference earlier this week, they acknowledged that students in the program are carefully monitored. They said a graduate student experiencing problems would normally be referred to student support services.
Holmes’ pivotal year at the university has been shrouded in secrecy. District Court Judge William Blair Sylvester on Monday ruled the university cannot release records on Holmes’ time under the state’s open records law.
Meanwhile, authorities also are investigating whether Holmes practiced shooting in the remote mountains northwest of Denver.
The owner of C&M Guns in the town of Hot Sulphur Springs said local authorities, as well as agents with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have asked him whether Holmes came into his shop, which is near a public shooting range. Clark Branstetter said he didn’t remember seeing Holmes.
KUSA-TV in Denver first reported the visit to that shop and another unnamed one in the area.
The public shooting range is owned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. A spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Holmes used the range.
It’s not an easy thing to determine. The range isn’t staffed and no records are kept of who uses it. In late June, Holmes tried to join a private gun range east of Aurora but he never showed up.
More like this story
Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.
Please review our Policies and Procedures before registering or commenting