Defense: Holmes Reached Out Minutes Before Shooting

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 31 2012 10:31 AM

Did James Holmes Call His Psychiatrist Right Before the Shooting?

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James Holmes appears in court at the Arapahoe County Justice Center July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado

Photo by RJ Sangosti/AFP/GettyImages.

Somewhat lost in yesterday's RNC crush was the latest hearing in the Aurora shooting case, in which we learned a few more details about James Holmes and his actions in the moments before the mass shooting that killed 12 and injured scores more.

We'll get to the outcome of the preliminary hearing in a second, but first, this is the part that caught our eye: Holmes' defense attorney revealed that her client attempted to reach out to a University of Colorado psychiatrist in the moments before the shooting.

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From the Associated Press recap:

"During questioning, [defense attorney Tamara] Brady revealed that Holmes reached out to [Dr. Lynne Fenton] 9 minutes before the shooting by calling a hospital switchboard that could reach the psychiatrist after business hours. [Prosecutor Karen] Pearson suggested that Holmes also could have called Fenton directly at her office, but apparently did not."

Whether or not Holmes issued a cry for help is already playing a major role in the case's early proceedings. The main focus of Thursday's hearing was whether prosecutors can use a notebook that Holmes sent to Fenton before the shooting. They say that the document is not protected by doctor-patient privilege because the shooting happened more than a month after Holmes' last meeting with Fenton and because they say he likely expected to be either dead or in prison after the shooting spree.

For now, it looks like prosecutors will have to do a better job arguing their case. The presiding judge ruled Thursday that they had not yet done enough to establish their right to the notebook. "We've got to be extremely cautious about violating privilege," Judge William B. Sylvester said. "If we do, it would be problematic for anything we're trying to do." The matter will be revisited at a future hearing next month.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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