Defense: Accused Colorado gunman was restrained in psych ward

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 08, 2013 10:41 PM

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Accused movie theater gunman James Holmes was held in restraints for several days at a psychiatric hospital last November after jail officials determined he was a threat to himself, his lawyers said in a court filing made public on Friday.

The disclosure came in a motion by Holmes' public defenders to have a videotape of his hospitalization turned over to them by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, which runs the jail where he is being held without bond.

Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester ordered the sheriff's office to preserve and maintain the videotape "pending further order of the court."

The court filings were made public on the same day that Sylvester rejected a motion by defense attorneys to declare Colorado's insanity defense law unconstitutional. Holmes, 25, is scheduled to enter a plea in the case on Tuesday.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder in the July shooting rampage that killed 12 moviegoers and wounded 58 others during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado.

Defense lawyers said in the motion that Arapahoe County attorneys not involved with the prosecution asked a judge last November 15 to transfer Holmes to a hospital because he was a danger to himself and in "immediate need of a psychiatric evaluation."

That same day, Holmes was transported by ambulance from the jail to Denver Health Medical Center's psychiatric unit "where he remained for several days, frequently in restraints," the motion said.


That hospitalization, defense lawyers noted, was separate from an earlier incident where Holmes was treated at a hospital for injuries "that resulted from potential self-inflicted head injuries in his cell."

The motion said the sheriff's office refused to give the video to prosecutors or defense attorneys at the direction of Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson.

Robinson told Reuters on Friday night that he had released a "relevant video to both sides," but citing a gag order imposed by the judge in the case, declined to comment on its contents.

Robinson said his office had been "straightforward and cooperative" in the case, and that he would not release the hospital video because it was taken outside his jurisdiction.

"I told them (attorneys) that I didn't have the authority to give them that video because it was taken in Denver and they'd have to go through them," he said.

In rejecting the defense motion to declare Colorado's insanity defense law unconstitutional, Sylvester said defense lawyers had raised the issue prematurely since Holmes had yet to enter a plea, and prosecutors had not indicated whether they would seek the death penalty.

Lawyers for Holmes last week challenged the constitutionality of a Colorado statute that requires a defendant who raises an insanity defense to submit to examinations by court-appointed psychiatrists.

Defense lawyers argued that the law, which would compel Holmes to provide potentially damaging information that could be used against him at trial, or at sentencing should he be convicted, violated his Fifth Amendment guarantee of protection against self-incrimination.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney)