Aurora Theater Shooting

James Holmes hearing: Mustache, outburst, no decision on unsealing files

A judge did not decide today whether to unseal the court file in the case of James Holmes, the 24-year-old charged with opening fire at a July 20 midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, killing twelve and injuring 58. Its unclear when Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester will issue a ruling.

A consortium of media organizations asked that affidavits, warrants and motions in the case be made public, but neither the prosecution nor the defense wants that to happen.

Holmes's defense attorney, Daniel King, said doing so would harm his client's right to a fair trial. For instance, he said, a released motion that talked about Holmes's relationship with a psychiatrist at the University of Colorado, where he was a grad student, "caused a flurry of activity and speculation." King described the psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, as someone Holmes "turned to to get help with his mental illness." It was one of a few times that King referred to Holmes as mentally ill.

King also said allowing public access to the documents would be unfair to the victims. "These poor people suffered immeasurable harm through no fault of their own," he said.

At his first court appearance, Holmes appeared sleepy, as if he was struggling to keep his eyes open. Today, he appeared more alert. His hair is still a blend of neon orange and faded pink, though his brown roots are beginning to show. He's also sporting facial hair: long sideburns and a mustache. At one point, he scanned the audience, which included more media than victims, his eyes wide. For much of the hearing, he sat with his hand folded in his lap, tapping his thumbs together. He seemed to be paying attention, if not actively participating in his defense.

Prosecutors argued that this is not an ordinary case because there are so many victims and witnesses, hundreds of whom have not been interviewed by police yet. Unsealing the court file would interfere with the ongoing investigation, they said. "Our overall argument, judge, is just not now," said prosecutor Jacob Edson.

About halfway though the hearing, a woman sitting near the back stood up and shouted at the judge. The woman, who was wearing a red dress and had a shaved head, said she had information "vital to the defense" and had tried to give it to Holmes's attorneys but was unsuccessful. Sylvester said he couldn't make the public defenders speak to her. She was holding a spool of blue ribbon and a stack of yellow papers with writing on them in her hands. "It will do the victims's families justice to have this information," she said before being escorted from the courtroom.

After she left, Shane Medek, the brother of victim Micayla Medek, mumbled, "It's a fuckin' circus in here."

Outside the courthouse, Medek said of Holmes, "He was such a coward. He wouldn't look me in the eye." The attorneys at the hearing spoke about ensuring Holmes a fair trial, Medek said, "but where's our fairness?"

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "James Holmes in court: Mentally ill or faking it?"

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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