Holmes called therapist before shooting

2012-08-31 22:16
James Holmes (AP)

James Holmes (AP)

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Centennial - The man suspected in last month's Colorado cinema shooting that left 12 people dead and wounded 59 tried to call a psychiatrist just nine minutes before the attack, his defence attorneys said.

The call was revealed as prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to obtain a notebook belonging to 24-year-old suspect James Holmes that reportedly contains a violent description of the attack.

A judge ruled on Thursday that prosecutors couldn't disprove a doctor-patient relationship between Holmes and University of Colorado psychiatrist Dr Lynne Fenton.

Now the question is whether Holmes sent the notebook to Fenton for use in therapy or treatment. Defence attorneys say Holmes is mentally ill. Prosecutors suggest Holmes was angry at a failing academic career and efforts to withdraw from a doctoral program at the university.

Dead, prison

Prosecutors argued that the notebook wasn't meant to be used for those purposes because Holmes wasn't going to be around.

"He intended to be dead or in prison after this shooting," Chief Deputy Karen Pearson said in court. Pearson didn't explain why she believed Holmes would be dead, but she pointed to a dating site where Holmes asked, "Will you visit me in prison?"

Defence attorney Tamara Brady objected and said Pearson was making "many gigantic leaps" and that a doctor patient relationship existed even though Fenton hadn't seen Holmes since June 11.

The judge will take up the matter again at a September 20 hearing.

During questioning, Brady revealed that Holmes tried to reach Fenton nine minutes before the shooting by calling a hospital switchboard that could reach the psychiatrist after business hours. Pearson suggested that Holmes also could have called Fenton's directly at her office, but apparently did not.

No relationship

Fenton testified that she believed they had no doctor-patient relationship by July 19, the day prosecutors say Holmes mailed the notebook. She also said she contacted a campus police officer after her last meeting with Holmes on June 11.

"I communicated with [the officer] to gather more information on this case and also communicate my concerns," Fenton said.

Fenton said she never saw the package. She learned about it from a defence team investigator two days after the shooting and she contacted her attorneys. The package was discovered in a university mailroom July 23.

University spokesperson Erika Matich said the school would have no comment on Fenton's testimony, including any details about her contact with campus police. A university spokesperson said last week that a criminal background check was done on Holmes before the attack but released no details.

"Dr Fenton's testimony stands for itself," Matich said.

Warning

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 programme director bluntly warning colleagues: "Do NOT offer admission under any circumstances."

University spokesperson Tom Moore said was academically qualified but officials did not see him as a "good personal fit for our program". He declined to elaborate.

Holmes later enrolled as a first-year PhD student in a neuroscience program at the University of Colorado, Denver. He withdrew on June 10.

Holmes said on his Iowa application that he was passionate about neuroscience and would bring "my strong moral upbringing" to the programme.

- AP
Read more on:    james holmes  |  us  |  us cinema attack
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