James Holmes case: Prosecutors' case for motive, not insanity
This afternoon's hearing in relation to the James Holmes/Aurora theater shooting case is expected to be among the most important to date. The session revolves around defense efforts to keep under wraps communication between Holmes and Dr. Lynne Fenton, the psychiatrist who'd been caring for him -- info that includes a package he sent to her that was found after the massacre. Meanwhile, prosecutors, led by district attorney Carol Chambers, are apparently attempting to establish a motive for Holmes -- a tactic that would undermine an expected insanity defense. How so?
During Holmes's first court appearance), his bizarre behavior -- he seemed dazed, unable to focus and unaccountably sleepy, among other things -- raised questions in the press about whether he was mentally ill or faking it. The defense was clearly hoping to lay the groundwork for the former supposition when it released a document revealing that Holmes had been Fenton's patient -- a reference that was partlycensored from the document after the fact, presumably at the request of Chambers and her colleagues in the 18th Judicial District DA's office.
Holmes in a screen capture from his initial hearing -- the only one thus far at which photographs were allowed.
Chambers is a well-known death penalty advocate, aggressively seeking to mete out the ultimate punishment against defendants she deems deserving of this penalty. And given the shocking casualty count in the attack on the Aurora Century 16 (twelve dead, 58 injured), Holmes would certainly seem like a candidate for such a sentence -- but only if he's not found to have been legally insane at the time the crime was committed.
The aforementioned package could provide Chambers with clues about premeditation. Reports suggest that it contained a notebook with sketches of the proposed attack, complete with a gun-wielding stick figure. No wonder the defense would like to keep it out of official evidence in the case.
The argument over whether Judge William Sylvester will grant this request was originally supposed to take place a couple of weeks ago, but it was put off until today after a delay request; see that document below.
In the interim, a hearing over Holmes's education records afforded Chambers and company to file a response (also seen here) featuring the following paragraph:
Evidence gathered so far indicates: (1) the defendant had conversations with a classmate about wanting to kill people in March 2012 and that he would do so when his life was over; (2) that he failed his graduate school oral boards at the University of Colorado in June 2012; (3) that he was denied access to the school after June 12, 2012, after he made threats to a professor at the school; (4) that he subsequently started the process to voluntarily withdraw from his graduate studies programs and was in the process of completing that withdrawal at the time that the offense occurred; (5) that after he was denied access to the CU-Denver Anschutz campus, he began a detailed and complex plan to obtain firearms, ammunition, a tear-gas grenade, body armor, a gas mask and a ballistic helmet, which were used in the commission of the murders and the attempted murders.
The clear message: Holmes was upset at being kicked out of his grad program, and so he decided to lash out at everyone around him. If so, that would suggest his actions were spurred by something other than madness -- a point underlined in another portion of the document, which reads, "The defendant's educational records are relevant to the investigation of these crimes, his planning and motive."
By the way, Judge Sylvester had told attorneys he hoped to issue a ruling about the educational documents this past Monday. At this writing [update], there are no documents pertaining to this decision online, but 7News reports that Chambers' office will be given access to some of the records, albeit with redactions for some information deemed confidential.
As for Daniel King, Holmes's lead attorney, he argued in last week's hearing that his client's motive is "irrelevant." Expect to hear similar assertions this afternoon.
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.
- Is the Word "Marijuana" Offensive?
Wed., Dec. 9, 7:00pm
Wed., Dec. 9, 8:00pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:00pm
Fri., Dec. 11, 7:35pm
- Reader: I Can't Go Home for Two Years Over One Gram of Pot
- Ten Best Denver-Area Coffeehouses That Also Serve Liquor