James Holmes banned from CU for threats month before theater shooting
Editor's note: Yesterday, our Melanie Asmar was in the courtroom when a prosecutor said James Holmes had been banned from the University of Colorado the month before he allegedly killed twelve people and injured 58 at an Aurora theater. Afterward, a CU spokeswoman said that's not the case. Learn more in our post "James Holmes: Was he banned from CU or not?," and continue reading for Asmar's on-the-scene coverage.
Update below: Suspected Aurora theater shooter James Holmes was banned from the University of Colorado in June after he made threats that were reported to the campus police, prosecutors said in court today. That month, he also failed his oral board exams, was told by professors that he should perhaps find a different path and began to withdraw from the school's neuroscience program.
Prosecutor Karen Pearson suggested that the "dissatisfaction in his life" is relevant to what happened on July 20, when twelve people were killed and 58 wounded at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie. Prosecutors are requesting access to about 100 pages of Holmes's educational records, which likely include his application, grades, e-mails and documents related to Holmes terminating his relationship with the university.
However, Holmes attorney Daniel King said prosecutors are simply on a "fishing expedition" for information about his client. "It's irrelevant what the motive is," he said.
Update, 4:18 p.m. August 23: Holmes was present at today's hearing, the latest in a series of Thursday afternoon court dates. He wore a red jumpsuit and his hair was bushy. The dye in it continues to fade, so that it now looks like two shades of orange -- neon-ish toward the crown and lighter around the edges. Much like at last week's hearing, Holmes looked to be paying attention, but not much more than that.
Pearson said Holmes wasn't doing well in school and suggested that he wasn't living up to his own academic expectations. She said he failed his oral exams on June 7, which she said was "very much relevant to what happened afterward" -- including that Holmes bought guns and ammunition and rigged his apartment with explosives. Pearson said CU shut off Holmes's ID card after he made threats, but she didn't go into detail.
Prosecutors have also requested records from campus police and the CU Behavioral Evaluation Threat Assessment Team. Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist Holmes was seeing, is said to have reported him to that team.
King argued that prosecutors don't need access to the records because they appear to know everything already, though he said he questions the validity of some of their information. "They've already got, apparently, what they say they're seeking," King said. Last Thursday, CU turned over an envelope of "approximately 100 pages of non-medical educational records" in response to a subpoena from prosecutors, according to a summary of the hearing. Holmes's defense attorneys objected to the subpoena -- which led to the debate today. The judge did not immediately rule.
Next Thursday, attorneys are scheduled to argue over whether a doctor-patient privilege existed between Holmes and Fenton at the time he mailed her a package that was discovered in the CU mailroom after the shooing -- and if so, whether the contents of that package are off-limits to prosecutors.
King asked Judge William Sylvester today to first rule on what type of privilege would apply. Prosecutors say that psychiatrists are medical doctors and, according to Pearson, "statements to doctors are not ipso facto privileged."
But King argued that the judge should instead apply the standard for professionals such as psychologists and social workers, who are not medical doctors but who cannot testify about communications with their clients without a waiver. To suggest that psychiatrists have lower level of privilege "flies in the face of reason," King said.
Sylvester asked both sides to file additional arguments by noon tomorrow and said he will rule by Monday.
More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Photos: Aurora theater shooting and ten massacre sites that were changed (or not)."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Westword's biggest stories.