CENTENNIAL – The suspect in the Aurora movie shooting showed no emotion in court Thursday as a lawyer discussed a charity’s efforts to distribute $4 million it raised for the victims.
James Holmes attended the brief procedural hearing in which the prosecution sought the judge’s permission to release contact information for the 12 people killed and 58 injured. Most documents in the case have been sealed, so even that step required Judge William Sylvester’s approval.
“People have been incapacitated or lost family members and are in dire financial straits,” prosecutor Rich Orman said.
The Colorado foundation Giving First raised the money for the victims and their families. Sylvester later ruled that another group, Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, could receive the contact information to give out the $4 million but only after the victims agreed. The organization must keep the information confidential.
Holmes was wide-eyed but didn’t show any reaction. He mostly looked ahead but glanced at Orman a few times.
During the half-hour hearing, Holmes looked around the room and straight ahead but didn’t focus on whoever was speaking. However, he did appear to be paying attention to the proceedings. He furrowed his brow when some in the courtroom laughed about a quip regarding the trustworthiness of using the U.S. Postal Service to notify each other of actions. When someone entered the hearing late, Holmes looked toward the door.
Also during the hearing, the University of Colorado, where Holmes was a graduate student, turned in 100 pages of documents requested by the prosecution, but one of Holmes’ lawyers, Tamara Brady, objected to the judge reading them. The prosecution wants access to the documents to help them make their case that a notebook Holmes sent to University of Colorado psychiatrist Lynne Fenton should be allowed into evidence. It reportedly contains descriptions of a violent attack.
Sylvester said he would take up the issue of whether he could view the documents on Aug. 23, pushing back scheduled arguments over whether prosecutors can have access to the notebook for yet another week.
Holmes’ other lawyer, Daniel King, said in court last week that Holmes had sought out Fenton for help with his mental illness and the notebook’s contents are protected by doctor-patient privilege.
Police said before the July 20 attack, Holmes methodically stockpiled guns, ammunition and material for explosives for months and that he received shipments at the university and his nearby apartment. Legal analysts widely believe Holmes’ mental health will be key to his defense, and Fenton may testify in court.
The university’s website identifies Fenton as medical director of its Student Mental Health Services. An online résumé said she sees 10 to 15 graduate students a week for medication and psychotherapy as well as five to 10 patients in her general practice as a psychiatrist.
Holmes enrolled in a doctoral program in neuroscience at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz medical campus in June 2011. He left without explanation a month before he is accused of putting on riot gear and opening fire on the audience during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie.
The public defenders’ office was appointed to represent Holmes in the hours after the shooting at his family’s request, according to court documents released earlier this week.
Holmes’ lawyers are members of the public defender’s capital cases team, which represents people in death-penalty cases. District Attorney Carol Chambers has said she is considering pursuing the death penalty.
Colorado defense attorney David Lane, who has been involved in a number of death-penalty cases, said there is no issue with the public defenders’ abilities.
“Colorado public defenders are the best death-penalty lawyers in the United States,” Lane said.