Aurora Theater Shooting

James Holmes case: Judge grants extension for mental health evaluation

The mental health evaluator who will examine Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes pursuant to Holmes's plea of not guilty by reason of insanity earlier this month has been granted the time extension he requested; the deadline for the evaluation has been pushed back from July 31 to September 16.

"I don't think I have a whole lot of choice," Judge Carlos Samour said at a brief hearing this morning. "That's how long it's going to take." But despite the delay, the trial will remain set for February 3, 2014.

The Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, where the evaluation will take place, requested the time extension in a letter dated June 19 (and on view below). Superintendent William May explained that the evaluator needs more time because he is "reviewing an extraordinary amount of documentation."

Judge Samour came up with a new pre-trial schedule that keeps the trial on track for February but delays hearings scheduled for August. Among the topics slated to be discussed in August was whether Fox News reporter Jana Winter would be compelled to testify about the identity of the sources she used to write an article describing the contents of a notebook Holmes mailed to psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton. Citing unnamed law enforcement sources, Winter reported that the notebook contained drawings and "details about how he was going to kill people."

Holmes's plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on June 4 waived any doctor-patient privilege that may have existed between himself and Fenton, thereby giving prosecutors access to the previously sealed and much-sought-after notebook. In light of that waiver, Judge Samour gave attorneys, including those representing Winter, until July 12 to file motions regarding the significance of the notebook and its impact on whether Winter should be forced to testify. (She has asked the court to drop the subpoena.)

Late last week, Winter's attorneys filed a motion asking to inspect the notebook before filing their motion regarding its significance.

"Winter cannot possibly brief the Court on this point without her counsel being permitted to inspect the notebook," her lawyers wrote in a motion on view below. Winter's attorneys wrote that not allowing them to do so would leave them "unfairly handicapped." They promised that any inspection would be "solely for the purposes of representing Winter."

But prosecutor Rich Orman said in court today that allowing Winter's attorneys to see the notebook would essentially mean the court would be turning over the important piece of evidence to Fox News. The privilege waiver does not extend to "third parties," he said, adding that giving it to Winter would be the equivalent of making copies and handing them out on the 16th Street Mall.

Defense attorneys asked to respond to Winter's motion in writing, a request that Judge Samour granted. Their response is due a week from today. The judge also set a new date for Winter to appear in court: September 30.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Samour briefly discussed the questionnaire that will be given to prospective jurors. He explained that he rejected an offer to administer the questionnaire online; instead, he said he'd prefer to call 800 jurors a day over a period of four days, administer them an oath and then have them fill out the questionnaire on paper. To get 3,200 jurors to show up, he said the court would probably have to issue summonses to 5,000 people. Both prosecutors and defense counsel agreed with that plan.

Holmes is charged with killing twelve people and injuring seventy more by opening fire at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora on July 20, 2012. He is due in court again on September 30 at 9 a.m.

Continue to read the letter requesting more time for the mental health evaluation and the motion by Winter's attorneys to inspect the notebook.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar

Latest Stories