‘Batman’ shooter was psychiatric patient
The suspected Batman massacre gunman was seeing a psychiatrist specialising in schizophrenia before the attack that killed 12 in Colorado, court documents showed.
The motion named Lynne Fenton for the first time as defence attorneys sought to gain access to a package James Holmes had mailed to her prior the July 20 mass shooting, which also wounded 58 people.
Reports surfaced last week that Holmes – who recently dropped out of the University of Colorado – had sent a notebook to a university psychiatrist that included details and drawings of his plans to kill people.
There were conflicting reports about whether the package reached the school in time to potentially prevent the massacre, but officials remained tight-lipped due to a strict gag order imposed by the judge overseeing the case.
However, defence attorneys argued that someone had leaked information about the package to the media, thus undercutting Holmes’s right to a fair trial.
“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,” the attorneys wrote.
In a preview of likely battles to come, the defence lawyers also argued that the contents of the package should not be used as evidence because communications between Holmes and Fenton were “protected”. The filing said Holmes was Fenton’s “psychiatric patient”.
Fenton teaches at the University of Colorado’s medical school and heads student mental health services there, in addition to conducting research in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.
But the document did not indicate how long Holmes had been seeing Fenton or whether she was treating him for mental illness.
Prosecutors rebuffed the defence motion, arguing that news stories about the package contained significant “factual errors” and that there was no evidence the government was responsible for the leaks.
The reporting mistakes may indicate that reporters are “getting information from hoaxers, fraudsters or maybe from nobody at all by creating fake ‘law enforcement sources’ out of whole cloth,” prosecutors wrote.
They also indicated that a foxnews.com report that the package contained a notebook “full of details” about the suspected gunman’s plans for a massacre was incorrect. Holmes, who was studying neuroscience in a doctoral programme at the University of Colorado Denver, is expected to be formally charged at his next court hearing tomorrow.
Judge William Sylvester ordered a hearing on the defence motions to also be held on that day.
Separately, attorneys for 21 US news organisations filed a motion asking the Sylvester to reverse his order to seal court records in the case.
The judge has ordered prosecutors and the defence to file their motions under seal, and ordered the University of Colorado to withhold records that concern Holmes.
Holmes gained access to the film theatre in Aurora, Colorado, outside Denver, via a fire exit shortly after the screening of The Dark Knight Rises began and threw two canisters of noxious gas into the auditorium,witnesses said.
After firing one round directly into the air with a pump-action shotgun, he began shooting people at random with a military-style assault rifle capable of firing 50 to 60 rounds a minute.
Authorities say Holmes – who had dyed his hair a reddish orange – claimed he was the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy in the comic book series that inspired director Christopher Nolan’s film trilogy, which features British-born actor Christian Bale as “the caped crusader”.
He gave himself up outside the cinema, still clad in the body armour witnesses described the gunman wearing.
Authorities said Holmes booby-trapped his apartment with the aim of killing anyone who went outside,likely targeting police and first responders. It was days before neighbours were allowed back in the three-storey building. Holmes, 24, is being held in solitary confinement at the Arapahoe County Detention Centre and could face the death penalty if convicted.