US gunman was seeing 'psychiatrist'
A former University of Colorado graduate student accused of killing 12 people and wounding 58 others in a shooting rampage at a Denver-area cinema last week had been under the care of a psychiatrist who was part of a campus threat-assessment team.
The disclosure came in court documents filed yesterday lawyers for James Holmes (24), who is accused of opening fire on a packed showing of the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, in the Denver suburb of Aurora.
Defence lawyers, in their request to an Arapahoe County district judge, are seeking a court order requiring prosecutors to turn over the contents of a package that Holmes sent to Dr Lynne Fenton and was later seized by investigators.
"Mr. Holmes was a psychiatric patient of Dr. Fenton, and his communications with her are protected," the filing said.
Dr Fenton, medical director for student mental health services at the University of Colorado-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, provides medication and psychotherapy for grad students in addition to her teaching duties, according to a school website.
A professional biography of Dr Fenton posted on the site said she had conducted research on schizophrenia, including a two-year grant to work in the schizophrenia research department of the US Department of Veterans Affairs from 2008 to 2010.
She also is a member of the campus-based "behavioural assessment and threat assessment team," which helps faculty and staff deal with "individuals who may be threatening, disruptive or otherwise problematic," according to that group's website.
It could not be ascertained if Dr Fenton was caring for Mr Holmes under the threat-assessment programme or under routine counselling she provided to students on campus.
Under Colorado law, mental health professionals cannot be held liable in civil suits for failing to predict a patient's violent behaviour unless it involves a "serious threat of imminent physical violence against a specific person or persons."
The University of Colorado, where Mr Holmes had been enrolled as a doctoral student of neuroscience, confirmed earlier last week that a suspicious package was delivered by mail on Monday and that it was "immediately investigated and handed over to authorities within hours".
Fox News has reported, citing a police source, that two packages were sent by Mr Holmes to a psychiatrist on the faculty of the University of
Colorado, and that one contained a notebook detailing the shooting scenario.
Formal charges against the suspect, who dyed his hair bright orange and was said by authorities to have referred to himself as the Joker - Batman's comic book archenemy - are expected to be filed in court on Monday.