Defense wants more time in Colorado shooting case

AP News
Posted: Oct 11, 2012 5:16 PM
Defense wants more time in Colorado shooting case

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (AP) — A hearing to decide if the man accused of opening fire on a Colorado movie theater should stand trial might not be held until January, as lawyers for both sides review nearly 19,000 pages of evidence along with thousands more pages of medical records.

The preliminary hearing is set for November, but Judge William Sylvester said Thursday he would consider a defense request to delay the hearing until the new year.

In another sign of how much new information is still being processed, Sylvester allowed prosecutors to file 14 additional attempted murder charges against James Holmes based on the latest findings of the investigation. Last month, he allowed them to file 10 more attempted murder charges against Holmes.

It's not clear whether each count represents an additional person hurt in the shooting. Prosecutors have not spoken about the case beyond what they have filed in court.

Also Thursday, mediator Ken Feinberg was beginning to meet with shooting victims and their families as he decides how to distribute $5 million in charitable donations to them.

Prosecutors said they could be ready for a hearing next month, but Deputy District Attorney Rich Orman said he wants to consult with victims and their families before agreeing to delay the preliminary hearing, where the evidence against Holmes will be presented. A hearing on the potential delay is set for Oct. 25.

Defense lawyer Daniel King said sifting through the reams of evidence was vital to understanding Holmes' mental state.

"We can't understand the nature and depth of Holmes' mental illness until we have that discovery," he said while arguing against the media's request for more information about the case to be unsealed.

Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and wounding at least 58 others in the July 20 shooting in the Denver suburb of Aurora. The 24-year-old former University of Colorado graduate student won't enter a plea until after the preliminary hearing, where the evidence gathered against him will be laid out.

After Holmes enters a plea, prosecutors would have 60 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty against him. If the preliminary hearing is delayed until next year, the decision will be made by the new district attorney elected to replace the current, term-limited one, Carol Chambers.

A lawyer appointed by prosecutors to represent the victims' interests argued against the media's request to unseal more information. Lisa Teesch-Maguire said victims have been harassed after being mentioned in court documents and have had their photos posted online by Holmes' supporters after they appeared at court proceedings. She didn't specify who was harassing them.

Teesch-Maguire also said the university psychiatrist Holmes was seeing, Lynne Fenton, can no longer live in her house because she doesn't feel safe. She did not elaborate.

Victims originally were identified in court records listing the charges filed against Holmes soon after the shooting, but their names have been redacted in subsequent documents adding and amending charges. Both prosecutors and the defense want those names and other information kept sealed, including affidavits, search warrants and witness lists.

Sylvester said he would rule by Monday on what details should be redacted.

Holmes appeared in court Thursday in leg shackles and a red jail jumpsuit. He still has short brown hair, along with long sideburns and a mustache.

Holmes looked straight ahead at no one in particular and didn't appear to speak to anyone at the defense table during the hearing. He periodically widened his eyes, causing wrinkles in his forehead.