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Colorado shooting suspect heads to court as media seek details

<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

DENVER -- James Egan Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring 58 others at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater on July 20, is expected to be in court Thursday in a hearing to unseal more details about the case.

Twenty news media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, have joined in a motion to ease a strict gag order imposed on the case by District Court Judge William Sylvester. That order bans anyone connected with the case from discussing it, including those at the University of Colorado. Sylvester has said pre-trial publicity could jeopardize a fair trial.

Holmes, 24, now faces 142 criminal charges in the case, including 24 counts of first-degree murder -- two for each of the people killed in a shooting rampage during a crowded midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

PHOTOS: Colorado movie theater shooting

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He had been a neuroscience doctoral student at the university before withdrawing about six weeks before the massacre, and his connection with the school could prove significant in the case.

Early court papers revealed that Holmes had been treated by Dr. Lynn Fenton, director of student mental health services at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. Some media outlets have reported that Fenton became alarmed enough by Holmes’ behavior that she notified both the campus’ Behavioral Evaluation and Threat Assessment Team and the campus police. Those concerns reportedly were not forwarded to Aurora police.

It is not publicly known whether there was any follow-up after Holmes withdrew from school, or what sparked the doctor’s alarm. The university has hired legal counsel for both an unnamed campus police officer and Fenton.

Should the gag order stand, information about the man who once reportedly described himself as “an aspiring scientist” may not come to light until a mid-November preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek the death penalty. That decision may well fall to someone not yet in office. The current district attorney, Carol Chambers, will leave office in January. Her successor will be decided in the November election.

[For the record, Aug. 9, 3:33 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the suspect as James Eaton Holmes instead of James Egan Holmes. It also incorrectly spelled the judge’s name as William Sylvestor instead of William Sylvester.]

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nation@latimes.com


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