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Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes to be back in court Monday

July 30, 2012|By Louis Sahagun

AURORA, Colo. -- Eleven days after the movie theater massacre, Arapahoe County prosecutors are expected to file formal charges Monday against the suspect, former neuroscience doctoral studentJames E. Holmes.

Holmes, 24, was arrested early July 20 just outside the Century 16 Theater’s emergency exit. A gunman had fired weapons, including an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, into the crowded midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 and injuring 58.

Eighteenth Judicial Dist. Atty. Carol Chambers is expected to seek the death penalty against Holmes, whose apartment allegedly contained booby-traps, including trip wires, 30 improvised grenades and gasoline,  along with Batman posters.

PHOTOS: Colorado movie theater shooting

Holmes’ public defenders could pursue an insanity defense on his behalf. He was seeing psychiatrist Lynne Fenton, 51, director of student mental-health services at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and a specialist in schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.

Holmes began the process of withdrawing from the university’s doctoral program in June. It remains unclear why he was being treated by Fenton.

If Holmes is found to be insane, the death penalty would be taken off the table, according to legal experts. He is being held in sequestered confinement without bail at the Arapahoe County jail.

After Holmes is formally charged, District Court Judge William B. Sylvester is scheduled to preside over pretrial motions, including one brought by public defender Daniel King that demands access to a package containing a  notebook that Holmes mailed to Fenton before the shooting. 

King contends that after Aurora police executed a search warrant and seized the package at the university last Monday, someone leaked information about it to reporters in violation of a gag order Sylvester issued  to limit pretrial publicity. The defense attorney wants to know who handled the package and demands that the leaker be sanctioned.

Chambers responded with a motion asking Sylvester to reject King’s request, denying that authorities leaked any information. She supports that assertion by highlighting errors in media reports. For example, Fox News, which broke the story, stated that the FBI had taken possession of the package. In fact, Aurora police have it, she said.

Chambers also dismissed media reports that authorities had opened the package and examined its contents. The package, she said, is secure and awaiting examination by law enforcement investigators.

Also on Monday, Sylvester will hear a motion from several news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, the Denver Post, the Associated Press and several local television stations and broadcast networks, requesting a hearing on his order that court records in the case be sealed. The media wants him to lift the seal.

That motion argues that his order “violates the public's constitutional right of access to the records of criminal prosecutions, and undermines our nation's firm commitment to the transparency and public accountability of the criminal justice system.”

The hearing is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Mountain time. 


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