Holmes Trial

Defense says Holmes mentally ill but hasn’t assessed how bad

Holmes appeared dazed again in an Arapahoe County district courtroom this morning as Judge William Sylvester and attorneys argued about making public some court documents

CENTENNIAL | James Holmes’ lawyer said in court Thursday the accused theater shooter is mentally ill, but they aren’t sure just how mentally ill he is.

Public Defender Daniel King said defense attorneys have received 2,677 pages of evidence from the prosecution, but they are still waiting on photographs, videotaped interviews and other pieces of evidence in the case.

  • James Holmes

    This courtroom sketch shows suspect James Holmes, right, being escorted into court by a sheriff's deputy for a motions hearing for suspected theater shooter James Holmes in district court in Centennial, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. James Holmes has been charged in the shooting at the Aurora theater on July 20 that killed twelve people and injured more than 50. (AP Photo/Bill Robles, Pool) TV OUT

  • Daniel King

    Public Defender Daniel King arrives with members of his team for a motions hearing for suspected theater shooter James Holmes in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. James Holmes has been charged in the shooting at the Aurora theater on July 20 that killed twelve people and injured more than 50. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

  • Daniel King, William Blair Sylvester, James Holmes, Tamara Brady

    This courtroom sketch shows Public Defender Daniel King, center, as he talks to Judge William Blair Sylvester, left, at a motions hearing for suspected theater shooter James Holmes in district court in Centennial, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. Holmes, second from right, sits with attorney Tamara Brady. James Holmes has been charged in the shooting at the Aurora theater on July 20 that killed twelve people and injured more than 50. (AP Photo/Bill Robles, Pool) TV OUT

  • James Holmes

    This courtroom sketch shows suspect James Holmes during a motions hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. James Holmes has been charged in the shooting at the Aurora theater on July 20 that killed twelve people and injured more than 50. (AP Photo/Bill Robles, Pool) TV OUT

  • Colorado Shooting

    Public defenders Daniel Kink, left and Tamara Brady, second from left walk with the defense team as they leave the Arapahoe County courthouse after a motions hearing for Aurora shooting suspect James Holmes on Thursday Aug. 9, 2012 in Centennial Colo. Holmes is charged with 12 murders the wounding of 58 others in the July 20th shooting at an Aurora theater. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)

That additional evidence is crucial, King said, because without it, “we as a defense cannot begin to assess the nature or depth of Mr. Holmes’ mental illness.”

King made the comment during a hearing about whether the court would unseal some documents in the case.

Legal experts have said since the July 20 shootings that left 12 dead and 58 injured at the Century Aurora 16 theater that Holmes’ defense team would likely plead insanity. King’s comments marked the first time in open court Holmes’ defense team has discussed a possible mental illness.

Holmes appeared in court wearing a red jail smock with what appeared to be a bullet-proof vest underneath. His dyed orange hair faded slightly since his arrest and he appeared not to have shaved since his arrest.

As with his previous two court appearances, Holmes didn’t show any emotion Thursday, even when a woman in the gallery unexpectedly stood up and told the judge she had information “vital to his defense.”

The woman, who had a shaved head and was holding a spool of blue ribbon and several manila envelopes, said she had tried to contact Holmes’ lawyers but had been rebuffed.

Court deputies escorted the woman from the court room after Chief Judge William Sylvester asked her not to interrupt again.

The victims and their family in the courtroom appeared angry with the woman’s outburst, with one man saying “it’s a circus in here, man.”

Sylvester did not rule on the motion from the media seeking to unseal several court documents, but both the prosecution and defense argued against unsealing the bulk of them. It’s not clear when he will rule on the media’s motion, but he said he hoped to rule on some matters raised by the media before Monday.

King said the media’s access to the case already was “unprecedented,” with cameras being allowed in court for Holmes’ first appearance and some documents being released publicly.

Deputy District Attorney Jacob Edson said he understood the public’s desire for more information in the case, but said it was too early in the investigation to release more information.

“Just not now, not at this stage,” he said.

As for when documents could be unsealed, Edson said they should be open to the public when the investigation is “at a satisfactory point.”

Some victims and their families are questioning whether that argument will change the trial’s focus to him rather than his actions.

“They keep talking about fairness for him,” said Shane Medek, whose 23-year-old sister Micayla Medek died in the July 20 shootings. “It’s like they’re babying this dude.”

Miranda Norris, who was in a theater next to the one where the shooting occurred during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie, saw Holmes in person for the first time at the Thursday hearing. “He seems like he’s crazy,” the 17-year-old said.

“It doesn’t give him the right to do what he did,” added Chris Townsond, who attended the court hearing with a wounded victim. “I don’t care how mentally damaged he is.”

King said Holmes sought out university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton for help weeks before the shooting. A hearing was scheduled for Aug. 16 to establish they had a doctor-patient relationship.

Holmes has shown hints that he understood what’s going on in the courtroom around him. He looked up at the ceiling and furrowed his brow as a woman in the spectator section disrupted the hearing Thursday. He glanced over at her when deputies escorted her out.

Medek said Holmes made eye contact with him. During previous hearings, Holmes had avoided looking at anyone in the courtroom.

“He gave me a little smirk, as well,” Medek said. “I’m happy for that. ‘Cause now he knows that I’m going to be looking at him as he sits there in court, or sits there all drugged up in a mental hospital. Or gets the injection.”

Holmes’ public defenders could argue he is not mentally competent to stand trial. It was the argument used for Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty this week to a 2011 shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

If Holmes goes to trial and is convicted, his attorneys can try to stave off a possible death penalty by arguing he is mentally ill or argue he’s innocent by reason of insanity. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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  • Gofastgo

    Here we go folks!  Years of ‘mental evaluation’ by ‘experts’, of course all paid for by the taxpayers.  Then, after these number of years, he will be cured and perhaps one day be sitting next to you and your child on a public mode of transportation, living large in a taxpayer home, wearing taxpayer clothing, eating taxpayer food, and going to school once again to become educated and a member in good-standing in our community.  That’s what they’re trying to do here folks.

  • reader

    I saw a man on television say the Tuesday night before the massacre, he was in a bar with Holmes, drinking beer and talking about the Broncos.  He said Holmes was acting normal.  That is why I doubt he is as crazy as he acts.  Seems as if he’s just plain out evil.

    • Gofastgo

      Agreed.  How about Loughner, with that crazy sneer after the murders he committed.  Now he acts normal and pleaded to life in prison so they wouldn’t send him to death row, and in Arizona, they may do it, not like here in Colorado.

  • http://twitter.com/WinningGold ET Mom

    A fair trial requires transparency. Holmes might have needed help and he did not receive it. That would make himbanother victim.
    How many others like him are left?

    Threat assessment teams need to be accountable for their negligence.

    Some of those teams seem to be devoted to cover up and they do it well..because they are not accountable.

    One act of negligence caused this tragedy. Some Campus Threat assessment Teams are now on a loose leash and they are risking the whole community.

    The negligence must be disclosed..so we all can feel safer.

    • Gofastgo

      Please, let’s not start blaming the blameless.  Someone is too blame, and it’s not the threat assessment team.   It’s the trash who committed this horrendous act.  Don’t start pointing fingers at everything but the problem who is this punk.

      How about his family?   This trash must have family.  Wouldn’t you think they knew he was insane?

      If he needed ‘help’, wouldn’t the family have made sure he got help? 

      Your comment sounds like someone who thinks all the police are on a ‘loose leash’ also., I do not, they demand and should receive respect, not getting shouted at from close range or face to face with some scofflaw on the street.  But your thinking, ‘threat assessment teams’ and anyone else you can point your finger at, are at fault.  Not in my mind, family first, himself first and foremost.

  • http://twitter.com/WinningGold ET Mom

    He might or might not be ill. That doesn’t mean he is not responsible.

    The problem is we are not being allowed to know everything. They are covering up something.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tan-Jo/100002719014381 Tan Jo

    did holmes seek out a pyschiatrist or was he obliged to go see her? A man goes to a doctor to deal with a problem not simply to be diagnosed and untreated or managed. While citizens need to take responsiblility for their health more and more, the issue of the lack of the ability of doctors who commaand big fees to diagnosis and treat diseases is bloody alarming.

    If holmes was a threat, then he should have been referrred as such to the cops and elsewhere and not dropped because it was beyond the universities jurisdiction.

    the public pays huge amounts for doctor fees who in the majority are lousy, bloody lousy at diagnosing and treating people.

    And the tv doctors say that there was nothing else that could have been done so the public should simply wait to be gunned down in the next movie theatre. What a croc of horsemanure!!