James Holmes’ lawyers claimed on Thursday that their client, the Aurora, Colo. shooting suspect, is mentally ill.
The lawyers made the statement at a hearing in which several news outlets asked the judge to unseal documents relating to the July 20 movie theater massacre that left 12 dead and 58 injured. Nearly all documents are currently sealed and unavailable to the public, with only a few exceptions made by Judge William Sylvester. He has not yet ruled on the motion to unseal the documents.
Holmes has been charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder after allegedly opening fire on a theater full of moviegoers at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. After his arrest, police found Holmes’ apartment booby-trapped with various explosives and incendiary devices to be triggered by trip wires. Experts spent several days disarming all the devices.
Several legal analysts have speculated that Holmes’ case will be dominated by arguments over his sanity. With Thursday’s declaration, it is clear that Holmes’ lawyers are laying the groundwork for a not guilty by reason of insanity defense.
Several reports have surfaced regarding Holmes’ mental state since his arrest. The suspect’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, reportedly broke doctor-patient confidentiality in order to express concerns over his behavior to authorities prior to the shooting. Holmes also reportedly sent a notebook, detailing plans of his attack, to the University of Colorado, but it remained unopened in a mailroom.
At his first hearing, Holmes appeared dazed and distracted. He did not enter a plea.
In the days that followed, Holmes reportedly asked why he was in prison and said that he could not recall anything from the tragic shooting.
Attorneys for Holmes have fought to keep the case under wraps, claiming that a wide release of information could affect Holmes’ ability to receive a fair trial.
On the other hand, one of Holmes' defense attorneys, Daniel King, argued: “We cannot begin to assess the nature and depth of Mr. Holmes’ metal illness until we receive full disclosure," saying that he needed more information from prosecutors and investigators.
Prosecutors have also said that releasing documents could jeopardize their investigation.
Several media outlets, on the other hand, have filed an 85-page motion stating that the public has “an obvious and legitimate interest” in actions being taken by government officials in the case.
“The status quo violates the public’s constitutional right of access to the records of criminal prosecutions and undermines our nation’s firm commitment to the transparency and public accountability of the criminal justice system,” the document reads.