CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – Newly filed court records allege that the man accused of opening fire on a Colorado movie theater in July told a classmate he wanted to kill people four months before the shooting.
Prosecutors made the contention in a motion released Friday. They are seeking access to James Holmes’ records from the University of Colorado Denver’s neuroscience graduate program.
Prosecutors wrote that Holmes left the program in June after also “made threats to a professor at the school” that month and failing his year-end final.
In a motion seeking school records unsealed by the court they wrote, “The defendant had conversations with a classmate about wanting to kill people in March 2012 and that he would do so when his life was over.”
Holmes’ attorneys argue that prosecutors should have no access to his student records. The papers they filed in response to prosecutors do not address the allegations of threats.
“The prosecution is demanding these records. Of course the defense is objecting. Expect the defense to object to everything hoping the judge will make an error they can use down the road for their client’s benefit,” said attorney and legal analyst Craig Silverman.
Holmes is charged with killing 12 and wounding 58 during the July 20 attack on a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora.
Holmes’ defense lawyer, Daniel King, has said Holmes is mentally ill, setting up a possible insanity defense.
The University of Colorado Denver released the following statement on Friday explaining why they aren’t providing comments to the media:
“The State of Colorado’s criminal prosecution will occur over a period of many months. As those legal proceedings occur, both the prosecution and the defense will make arguments to the court about what they understand the evidence to be, and Judge Sylvester has clearly indicated that the courtroom is the proper forum for evidence to be presented and for him to resolve important legal questions. The University of Colorado believes in these legal processes will ultimately present the full history of James Holmes’ interactions with the University of Colorado, its educators, and its medical providers. Until then, the University may only provide information when doing so is permitted by not only Judge Sylvester’s orders, but also by the laws governing the physician-patient relationship and educational privacy.”
CBS4 reported earlier this week that Holmes had seen three mental health professionals at the university before the shooting. The only one whose name has been publicly disclosed, Dr. Lynne Fenton, is subpoenaed to appear in court for the case. At issue is a package mailed by Holmes to her and recovered in the campus mail room three days after the shooting — a notebook with information Holmes defense lawyers argue is privileged and shouldn’t be released to the public.
Arguments at a hearing Thursday by Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Pearson revealed a possible motive: Holmes’ anger that he was failing at school, “at the same time he’s buying an enormous amount of ammunition, body armor and explosives.”
Prosecutors said Holmes had started the plan to obtain firearms, ammunition, a tear gas grenade and more when he began withdrawing from school.
A gag order has been issued in the case. Prosecutors argued that gaining access to the school records would establish a motive by showing what Holmes hoped to accomplish at Colorado University and the “dissatisfaction with what occurred in his life that led to this.”
They also want to see records from campus police and a campus threat evaluation team similar to those established across the country after the 2007 Virginia Tech University shootings.
Defense lawyers have called the prosecution’s request for school records a “fishing expedition.”
“So what they’re trying to do is get their hands on every piece of evidence that they can so that they can prove he was sane at the time he committed those crimes,” said attorney and legal analyst Karen Steinhauser.