Anger over US movie shootings trial
Victims of the Colorado theatre shooting and their families have questioned whether the focus of the trial will be on the alleged gunman’s mental health rather than the killings themselves.
Defence lawyers for James Holmes have disclosed their belief that the 24-year-old shooting suspect is mentally ill.
However, Shane Medek, whose 23-year-old sister Micayla Medek died in the July 20th incident, said: “They keep talking about fairness for him. It’s like they’re babying this dude.”
Mr Holmes is accused of opening fire in a movie theatre, killing 12 people and injuring 58.
His lawyers disclosed their belief yesterday during a court hearing that he suffers from a mental illness when nearly two dozen news organisations asked a judge to unseal case documents.
Defence attorney Daniel King argued that the seal and a sweeping gag order ensure fairness.
Analysts expect the case to be dominated by arguments over Mr Holmes’ sanity and the defence’s revelation was the strongest confirmation so far that mental illness will be a key issue.
A court document previously revealed that Mr Holmes was seeing a school psychiatrist for unknown reasons.
Mr Holmes, a former PhD student at the University of Colorado, Denver, sat during the hearing with the dazed expression that he had in two previous court appearances.
“It doesn’t give him the right to do what he did,” said Chris Townsond, who attended the court hearing with a wounded victim. “I don’t care how mentally damaged he is.”
Mr King said Mr Holmes sought out university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton for help weeks before the shooting. A hearing was scheduled for August 16th to establish they had a doctor-patient relationship.
Mr Holmes’ lawyers could argue he is not mentally competent to stand trial. It was the argument used for Jared Loughner, who pleaded guilty this week to a 2011 shooting in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including then-Rep Gabrielle Giffords.
If Mr Holmes goes to trial and is convicted, his attorneys can try to avoid a possible death penalty by arguing he is mentally ill. Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Few details are known about the case because of the seal and gag order issued by the judge.
The Associated Press and 20 other news organisations yesterday asked him to scale back the order, which bars the university from releasing details about Mr Holmes.
Steven D Zansberg, an attorney representing the news consortium, said state law allows judges to issue gag orders barring prosecutors and law enforcement from commenting.
But Aurora officials have cited the gag order in declining to speak about the city’s response to the shootings, and even prosecution’s arguments on the order is under seal.
Gregory Moore, editor of The Denver Post, said before the hearing that the news organisations are trying to perform their watchdog role by making sure the investigation is conducted fairly.
The judge said he would rule on the matter by Monday. He did not say when he would respond to the request to unseal the court documents.