Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Alleged theatre killer mentally ill: defence

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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Attorneys for the man suspected of fatally shooting 12 people at a showing of the new Batman movie in Colorado said Thursday their client is mentally ill and they need more time to assess the nature of his illness.

James Holmes' lawyers made the disclosure at a court hearing in suburban Denver where news media organizations were asking a judge to unseal court documents in the case.

Holmes, a 24-year-old former Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, had the familiar, dazed demeanour that he has had in previous court appearances.

Holmes is accused of going on a July 20 shooting rampage at a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, killing 12 people dead and injuring 58 others.

Defence attorney Daniel King made the revelation about Holmes as he argued defence attorneys need more information from prosecutors and investigators to assess their client.

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

King said Holmes sought out university psychiatrist, Lynne Fenton, for help. He did not elaborate. A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 16 to establish whether there is a doctor-patient relationship between Fenton and Holmes.

Twenty-one news organizations, including The Associated Press, were also asking Chief District Judge William Sylvester to scale back a gag order that bars the university from releasing details about Holmes.

Arapahoe County prosecutors argue releasing documents could jeopardize their investigation. Holmes' attorneys want to ensure he receives a fair trial.

Sylvester's order sealing documents includes the case file, which makes it impossible for observers to understand prosecution and defence arguments on motions that are referenced by number only.

Little is known about how police say Holmes prepared for the shooting, or how they say he rigged his nearby apartment with explosives. Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates has said the explosives were designed to kill anybody who entered, including first-responders.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2012 A22

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