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Aurora theater shooting case: Lawyers say James Holmes is mentally ill

James Holmes, accused in the mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., is seen in a booking photo provided by police.
August 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Attorneys for the man accused of opening fire in a Colorado movie theater said Thursday their client is mentally ill, and they need more time to assess the nature and depth of his illness.

Courtroom sketches show James Holmes appearing dazed and detached in court, as he has in previous appearances.

Various media organizations want Chief District Judge William Sylvester to unseal documents that may provide the public with details about Holmes and the mass shooting in Aurora on July 20. They also want the judge to scale back a gag order that bars the University of Colorado from releasing details about Holmes, who was a former Ph.D. student at the school.

The shooting during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" left 12 people dead and 58 injured. Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.

"We cannot begin to assess the nature and the depth of Mr. Holmes' mental illness until we receive full disclosure," Defense attorney Daniel King said.

King said Holmes sought out university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton for help. A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 16 to establish whether there was a doctor-patient relationship between them.

Arapahoe County prosecutors say releasing sealed court documents could jeopardize their investigation. King opposed the news media motion, saying the gag order ensures fairness. Prosecutor Karen Pearson said she had filed her own argument on the issue in court - and that it is sealed.

The sealed documents include the case file, which makes it impossible for observers to understand prosecution and defense arguments on motions that are referenced by number only.

Judge Sylvester could make his decision regarding the documents and gag order at a later time.

Steven D. Zansberg, an attorney representing the news media consortium, said the judge should at least explain which documents have been sealed and why.

View photos from the scene of the shooting at an Aurora, Colo. theater


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