By Keith Coffman
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Accused movie theater gunman James Holmes returned to a Colorado courtroom on Thursday for a motions hearing, as defense lawyers and prosecutors set the stage for what will be a series of legal showdowns surrounding evidence in the high-profile case.
Shackled and clad in maroon prison garb with his dyed red hair fading to shades of pink and orange, Holmes appeared alert but sat silently at the defense table throughout the 30-minute proceeding.
The 24-year-old former University of Colorado neuroscience graduate student is accused of opening fire at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises" at a suburban Denver theater on July 20, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.
Thursday's hearing centered on procedural and scheduling items ahead of evidentiary hearings on what information the University of Colorado has in its possession about Holmes that can be seen by law enforcement.
Defense attorneys argue that a package Holmes, a California native, sent to university psychiatrist Lynne Fenton falls under therapist-patient privilege and should be turned over to them.
Public defender Daniel King said at an earlier hearing that his client sought help from Fenton for his "mental illness."
A hearing on the privilege issue has been postponed until August 30, as prosecutors said they needed more time to review evidence that is being assembled in the ongoing investigation.
Additionally, prosecutors subpoenaed records from the university concerning Holmes, and defense lawyers have moved to block prosecutors from viewing those files as well.
Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester said he will hear arguments on that issue next week, and accepted 100 pages of non-medical documents presented to him by a university official at Thursday's hearing.
The judge will rule on whether even he can view those documents following a hearing on the issue next week.
In a separate ruling, Sylvester denied a defense request to have its own scientific expert present for all evidence testing done by authorities, but said the defense can observe testing done on items that may be destroyed in the process.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)