Thursday, December 5, 2013
The Associated Press
DENVER — The suspect in the Colorado shooting rampage tried unsuccessfully to call his university psychiatrist 9 minutes before he opened fire during a Batman movie premiere, defense attorneys revealed in court Thursday.
In this Monday, July 23, 2012 file photo, James Holmes, accused of killing 12 people in Friday's shooting rampage in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, appears in Arapahoe County District Court with defense attorney Tamara Brady in Centennial, Colo. A court hearing Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 will examine Holmes' relationship with a University of Colorado psychiatrist to whom he mailed a package containing a notebook that reportedly contains violent descriptions of an attack. His attorneys say Holmes is mentally ill and that he sought help from psychiatrist Lynne Fenton at the school, where he was a Ph.D. student, until shortly before the July 20 shooting. Prosecutors allege Holmes may have been angry at the failure of a once promising academic career. (AP Photo/Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, Pool, File)
Defense attorney Daniel King leads other public defenders into court for a motions hearing for suspected theater shooter James Holmes in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. Holmes has been charged in the shooting at the Aurora theater on July 20 that killed twelve people and injured more than 50. (AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez)
James Holmes placed the call to an after-hours number at a hospital at the University of Colorado, Anschutz campus, where psychiatrist Lynne Fenton could be reached, defense attorney Tamara Brady said.
It wasn't clear why he called Fenton, and she wasn't immediately available to talk to him. Holmes, 24, is accused of opening fire during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.
The detail about the call came out during a hearing about his relationship with Fenton, to whom he mailed a package containing a notebook that reportedly contained violent descriptions of an attack.
Prosecutors asked the judge to let them review the notebook as part of their investigation, while defense attorneys argued it was inadmissible because it was protected by doctor-patient privacy laws.
Judge William B. Sylvester ruled that an ongoing doctor-patient relationship did exist between Fenton and Holmes, but he scheduled a Sept. 20 to revisit the notebook issue.
Thursday's three-and-a-half hearing was the longest yet that Holmes has attended. He appeared to pay close attention to the proceedings and smiled at least once as he leaned over to his attorney. Holmes had a light moustache but was otherwise clean-shaven, and his hair was blond and orange.
Fenton testified that she believed her privileged relationship with Holmes ended the last time she met with him, June 11.
But Brady brought up the call placed by Holmes in an effort to illustrate that the relationship was ongoing. With Fenton on the witness stand, Brady asked: "Do you know that Mr. Holmes called that number 9 minutes before the shooting started?"
Fenton responded, "I did not."
Prosecutors noted Holmes also had Fenton's office phone number. He apparently did not try to reach her there.
Meanwhile, the University of Iowa released records showing it rejected Holmes from a graduate neuroscience program last year after he visited campus for an interview and left the program director bluntly warning colleagues: "Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances."
It was unclear why Holmes' application was denied, and university officials wouldn't elaborate. But the application response was yet another window into a complex young man who was viewed as both brilliant and deeply troubled before the July shooting.
Holmes applied to the Iowa program in late 2010 and was given an interview Jan. 28, 2011, according to records released by the university. In his application, he painted himself as a bright student interested in improving himself and helping the world with a career in scientific research.
But two days after Holmes' interview, neuroscience program director Daniel Tranel wrote a strongly worded email urging the admissions committee not to accept him to the school.
"James Holmes: Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances," wrote Tranel, a professor of neurology.
Psychology professor Mark Blumberg followed up with a separate email two days later to say he agreed with Tranel about Holmes, one of three students Blumberg interviewed. "Don't admit," he wrote. He recommended admission for the other two.
The emails are among 12 pages of records the university released about Holmes in response to public records requests filed by The Associated Press and other news outlets.
(Continued on page 2)