Attorneys for the man suspected of fatally shooting 12 people at a showing of the new Batman movie in Colorado said on Thursday their client is mentally ill and that they need more time to assess the nature of his illness.
James Holmes’ lawyers made the disclosure at a court hearing in Denver where news media organizations were asking a judge to unseal court documents in the case.
Holmes, a 24-year-old former PhD student at the University of Colorado, Denver, had the familiar, dazed demeanor 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 and injuring 58 others.
Defense attorney Daniel King made the revelation about Holmes saying defense 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 Thursday next week to establish whether there is a doctor-patient relationship between Fenton and Holmes.
Twenty-one news organizations 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 defense arguments on motions that are referenced by number only.
Sylvester on July 23 also issued a gag order that bars officials at the University of Colorado from responding to public records requests concerning Holmes.
The judge said doing so would jeopardize the county’s investigation.
“It is performing our watchdog role to look at the process and ... assess for the public how the police have handled the case ... and assure for the defendant and the public that things are being conducted open and fairly,” Denver Post editor Gregory Moore said.