Aurora Theater Shooting

James Holmes case: Why the delay in ruling about CU educational records?

At a hearing last Thursday related to the James Holmes/Aurora theater shooting case, Judge William Sylvester said he hoped to rule by Monday about whether prosecutors should have access to the suspect's University of Colorado educational documents. However, a decision on that matter hasn't been made public at this writing, one day before the next scheduled court session is slated to tackle the key question of doctor-patient confidentiality.

Our Melanie Asmar was in the courtroom last week as members of the 18th Judicial District DA's office argued that they should be able to peruse what she describes as "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." Holmes attorney Daniel King countered by maintaining that prosecutors are on a "fishing expedition," adding, "It's irrelevant what the motive is."

In the end, Asmar wrote, "Sylvester asked both sides to file additional arguments by noon [Friday], and said he will rule by Monday." At publication time, however, the most recent document posted on the 18th Judicial District web page related to the Holmes matter pertains to rules for media covering the August 30 hearing, set to take place at 1:30 p.m. at the Arapahoe County Justice Center. See it below.

No information has surfaced thus far about why Sylvester didn't hit his announced Monday target date for a decision about the educational records. But in the interim, there's been a dust-up between the DA's office, headed by the controversial Carol Chambers, and the University of Colorado.

At the Thursday hearing, prosecutor Karen Pearson said that in June, Holmes was banned from the Anschutz Medical Campus, where he had been a neuoroscience student, for making threats. This claim was reinforced by the release of a DA's office document asserting that Holmes had threatened a professor and said he'd wanted to kill people prior to being denied access to the campus.

But a CU Denver spokeswoman disputed the ban claim, saying Holmes's key card access had been terminated because he was in the process of withdrawing from the university, not due to threats. Hence, he no longer was able to get into restricted areas such as labs, but he was still allowed to visit any other public portions of the campus.

Is Chambers' office spinning evidence to lay the groundwork for disputing an anticipated insanity defense on behalf of Holmes, who was under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton? If so, it's hard to imagine Judge Sylvester being pleased. The eyes of the world are on this case -- one possible explanation for why he didn't rule as stated on Monday. No doubt he wants to be absolutely certain he gets everything right, and if it takes a little more time to do so, that's fine.

Here's the aforementioned document about coverage of tomorrow's hearing.

James Holmes Case: Media Logistics for August 30 Hearing

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes banned from CU for threats month before theater shooting."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts