Court to release documents in Aurora theater shooting


DENVER | After weeks of secrecy surrounding the Colorado theater shooting case, most of the documents filed in court will be released to the public on Friday.

This courtroom sketch shows suspect James Holmes during a motions hearing in district court in Centennial, Colo., on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. James 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/Bill Robles, Pool) TV OUT

The release, expected sometime after 8 a.m. MDT, could shed more light on what prosecutors say led to the July 20 shooting at the Century 16 theater in Aurora during a special midnight showing of the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” Former University of Colorado Denver, neuroscience graduate student James Holmes, 24, faces 152 charges in the shooting that killed 12 people and injured 58 others.

This photo released on Sept. 20, 2012 by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office shows James Holmes. Holmes is being held on charges in the shooting at an Aurora, Colo., theater on July 20 that killed 12 people and wounded 52. (AP Photo/Arapahoe County Sheriff)

Defense attorneys claim Holmes is mentally ill and sought the help of a university psychiatrist before the shooting, raising the possibility that Holmes will plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

In court, prosecutors raised the prospect that Holmes was angry at the failure of a once promising academic career and stockpiled weapons, ammunition, tear gas grenades, and body armor as his research deteriorated and professors urged him to get into another profession. Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson said Holmes failed a key oral exam in June, was banned from campus and began to voluntarily withdraw from the school.

Key information in the case gleaned from previous court documents includes:

— Confirmation that Holmes sent a package to CU psychiatrist Lynne Fenton. In the document, defense attorneys Daniel King and Tamara Brady described Fenton as Holmes’ psychiatrist, although prosecutors have said that their doctor-patient relationship ended on June 11, weeks before the attack. The package contains a notebook that reportedly includes descriptions and drawings of an attack, but Fenton said she never saw the notebook.

— Information from prosecutors that Holmes in March spoke with another student about killing people “when his life was over.”

Prosecutors and defense attorneys had asked that court documents be sealed to preserve an ongoing investigation and protect Holmes’ right to a fair trial. Sylvester ordered that some information in the documents that will be released have information blacked out to protect the identities of witnesses. Documents that won’t be released include an arrest affidavit, which contains information about the investigation, as well as requests for search warrants and subpoenas.

In his order, Sylvester noted that some information contained in court documents had been divulged in court and placing limits on what’s released balances the public’s First Amendment rights to see the court file, and prosecutors’ and defense attorneys’ concerns.