James Holmes' Defense Tells Judge Client Is Mentally Ill

9:44 AM, Aug 10, 2012   |    comments
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Centennial, CO--  The defense team for the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others in an Aurora movie theater July 20 could use mental illness as a possible defense.

Daniel King, the public defender for James Holmes mentioned his client's "mental illness" twice in court Thursday.

"By the remarks made the defense today, it appears as though the defense is setting the stage for this pleading," said 9NEWS legal analyst Scott Robinson. "The defense only has one card to play and that is the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity."

KUSA/9NEWS Crime and Justice reporter Anastasiya Bolton was in court Thursday during the 1:30 p.m. proceeding when the public defender Daniel King mentioned Holmes' "mental illness."

King told the court that so far the defense has seen 2,677 pages of discovery [referring to police reports, witness statements, photographs and other psychical evidence] and cited law that gives prosecution 20 days from the filing of charges to provide the documents they have in this case.

King said the defense has not seen pictures or interviews related to the case, saying today marks the 10th day since the charges were filed.

"We can't begin to assess the nature and depth of Mr. Holmes' mental illness until we see all the discovery," King said.

During a different portion of the hearing, while talking about the notebook investigators found allegedly sent by Holmes to his psychiatrists, King referred to Dr. Lynne Fenton as a "psychiatrist Holmes turned to for help with his mental illness."

Holmes was present at the hearing. He grew a mustache and sideburns, his hair is still red. He swung in his seat back and forth during the proceeding, looked around a bit, but generally looked like he was bored.

Some victims' families attended the court proceeding as well, but not nearly as many as showed up during the first two court dates held for the suspect.

The hearing was actually held to discuss whether the court should release the documents sealed in this case. A number of media outlets have asked the court to unseal documents in this case, most unavailable at this time, arguing the public's right to know.

The prosecution responded saying it was their and defense's duty in this case "to have a fair trial the results of which would stand up in appellate court."

The prosecution told the court they were concerned the release of documents would jeopardize the investigation at this point.

"This is not an ordinary case," one of the prosecution attorney's argued. "The investigation of this magnitude this state has not seen."

The prosecution also said the investigation was not complete. Hundreds of people were yet to be interviewed or re-interviewed.

Representatives of the people said the release of the documents was a balancing act between the people's first amendment right and the right of the defendant to a fair trial.

The prosecution told the court they were not against the release of the documents at some point, just not now.

King told the court the release of the documents would be harmful to his client having a fair trial.

The attorney for the media argued the public has the right to know what happens in open court.

The judge said he'll take a couple of days to make the ruling. It might come down as early as Monday.

During the court proceeding, a woman stood up in court asking to address the judge.

She said she had a complaint against the public defender's office because it was not accepting the information she had that would be helpful in Holmes' case.

She also said the information could help victims. She was escorted out of court and asked by the judge to call the public defender's office and leave a message.

9NEWS was not able to get more information about who she is because once the reporters leave the courtroom, they're not allowed back. Bolton did not leave.

Court documents would be released here

In Colorado, this type of legal battle has been seen before.

In 2007, an Arapahoe County judge sealed an indictment in the case of a missing 6-year-old girl whom authorities determined had been dead for at least two years before her father, Aaron Thompson, reported her missing. The state Supreme Court ordered the indictment unsealed in 2008, allowing the public to learn the charges against Thompson. Thompson was convicted of fatal child abuse in 2009.

When Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant faced sexual assault charges in Vail in 2003, it took a media challenge to unseal an affidavit in which police laid out their case for an arrest. Bryant maintained his innocence, and prosecutors dropped the case in 2005.

A news media challenge led to last year's release of an arrest affidavit in a sexual assault case involving former Denver Broncos cornerback Perrish Cox, who faced charges filed by Chambers' office. Cox was acquitted in March.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors routinely ask judges to keep some documents sealed, often because the documents contain information a jury won't hear at trial, said Denver criminal defense attorney Daniel Recht, who also argues First Amendment cases.

But Moore noted that some Colorado judges have sealed entire court dockets under the argument that the mere fact of media coverage will damage a case.



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