SSRI Ed note: Man on Zoloft warns psychiatrist of homicidal thoughts, she does not act in time, he kills 12, sentenced to life in prison. Psychiatrist not blamed.
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See also Prescription for Murder
The Denver Post
By John Ingold
Posted: 04/04/2013 04:29:12 PM MDT
CENTENNIAL — Thirty-eight days before the attack on the Century Aurora 16 movie theater, the psychiatrist treating suspect James Holmes told a police officer that her patient had confessed homicidal thoughts and was a danger to the public, according to newly unsealed court documents in the murder case against Holmes.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Lynne Fenton, also told the officer that Holmes had stopped seeing her and had been threatening her in text messages and e-mails, the documents state. The officer, Lynn Whitten, responded by deactivating Holmes’ key-card access to secure areas of University of Colorado medical campus buildings, according to search-warrant affidavits.
But the documents don’t reveal what — if anything — campus authorities did to investigate Holmes until 38 days later, when 12 people were dead in the July 20 movie-theater shootings, 58 more were injured by gunfire and Aurora police came to campus to ask questions.
“Dr. Fenton advised (Whitten) that through her contact with James Holmes she was reporting, per her requirement, his danger to the public due to homicidal statements he had made,” one search-warrant affidavit states.
The documents — 12 search-warrant affidavits and an affidavit in support of warrantless arrest — were created in the earliest days of the case but were originally sealed. They were unsealed Thursday by Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos A. Samour Jr., who took over the case Monday. Holmes’ murder trial is scheduled to begin next year.
Several media outlets, including The Denver Post, moved to have the documents released, arguing that the contents of the warrants and affidavits had likely been made public over the past eight months and were presented in court hearings, including the three-day preliminary hearing in January.
Indeed, most of the information in the documents has been disclosed, either during the preliminary hearing or in other court filings or testimony. But the affidavits add new details and context to the case’s timeline, while also contradicting other information.
For instance, prosecutors have previously revealed that Holmes made threats and had his key-card access cut off. But CU officials have denied that Holmes was banned from campus for making threats, saying instead that his key card was deactivated as part of a normal process when a student withdraws from school — which Holmes was doing at the time of the alleged threats.
Likewise, the affidavits contradict a statement Fenton made when testifying during an earlier hearing in the case. Fenton said she went to police in June with concerns about a patient. But, when asked whether she had ever reported a dangerous patient to police because she was required to by law, Fenton said she hadn’t.
A source has told The Denver Post that Holmes told Fenton on June 11 that he fantasized about killing “a lot of people.” The affidavits unsealed Thursday say Fenton told Whitten about her concerns June 12, and Whitten deactivated Holmes’ key card on the same day.
But the source told The Post that Fenton declined to order Holmes detained on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. On June 13, Holmes allegedly bought a 100-round magazine for his AR-15-style rifle, adding to a considerable arsenal of weapons and ammunition, according to court records and testimony.
The affidavits each contain a narrative of the case that matches with police testimony during the preliminary hearing about the early investigation into the case. The narratives, for instance, describe how police initially mistook a heavily armored Holmes for a fellow cop in the darkness behind the movie theater, before realizing he was the suspect.
They describe how Holmes told officers after his arrest that his apartment was loaded with explosives. When one officer asked Holmes if he had any accomplices, Holmes replied, “It is just me,” according to the affidavits.
The documents also provide minute insights into Holmes’ life.
Mixed among the explosives, ignition systems, bottles of motor oil and school textbooks at Holmes’ apartment, investigators found a receipt for an online movie ticket purchase, a Batman mask, index cards with chemical formulas written on them and a supply list, according to an inventory of items attached to one of the search warrants. Police also found medications in his apartment, including ibuprofen, sedatives and the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam. They also found the antidepressant sertraline, the generic version of the antidepressant Zoloft.
The inventory includes a number of video games, including Skyrim, StarCraft and Oblivion. On Holmes’ walls, officers pulled down posters from the film “Pulp Fiction” and for the paintball video series “Soldiers of Misfortune.”
And the affidavits reveal new information about the fiercely fought-over notebook that Holmes mailed to Fenton. The brown spiral notebook, with a place to write a name and course subject on the cover, was labeled with Holmes’ name and the words “Of Life” on the course line, according to one affidavit. Inside the notebook were a number of burnt $20 bills, the document states. The bomb technician who first found it said the notebook appeared to be a journal because it contained “unknown writings.”
But, for all the new details, the documents unsealed Thursday fail to answer the question hanging over the entire case: Why?
Early the morning of the shooting, police took Holmes to an interview room in the Aurora police headquarters, according to the affidavits. Holmes would later ask for an attorney upon being advised of his rights at 2:44 a.m. But for an unspecified amount of time before then, he talked with detectives while a video camera rolled, according to the documents.
Not one word of what he said is contained in the affidavits.
John Ingold: jingold@ denverpost.com
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James Holmes sentenced to life in prison in the Aurora theater shooting — (The Denver Post)
Day 65 of the Aurora theater shooting trial
By John Ingold and Jordan Steffen, The Denver Post
Posted: 08/07/2015 11:42:37 AM MDT
CENTENNIAL — James Holmes will spend the rest of his life in a prison cell instead of dying in an execution chamber, jurors in the Aurora movie theater shooting trial decided Friday.
After deliberating for less than seven hours over two days, the jury of nine women and three men failed to unanimously agree that death is the appropriate punishment. The disagreement means Judge Carlos Samour Jr. will sentence Holmes to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murders of 12 people at the Century Aurora 16 theater. The shooting occurred July 20, 2012, during the midnight premiere of the Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, parents of theater victim Jessica Ghawi, listen as District Attorney George Brauchler talks to the media outside the courthouse.
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, parents of theater victim Jessica Ghawi, listen as District Attorney George Brauchler talks to the media outside the courthouse. The jury in the James Holmes trial sentenced him to life in prison. (Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post)
Arlene Holmes, the gunman’s mother, stood when the judge asked her son to rise for the reading of the verdicts. Her husband wrapped his arm around her and squeezed. When the judge read the first verdict, all of Arlene Holmes’ weight fell into her husband, and she wept.
Across the aisle, families bowed their heads and sobbed. A man jumped out of his seat, crawled over fellow victims and dashed out the courtroom door before the judge reached the third verdict.
Sandy Phillips, whose daughter , Jessica Ghawi, was killed, wrapped herself in her daughter’s green scarf and folded over in her seat as she held her head and cried.
When 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan’s name was read, her mother, Ashley Moser, bowed and shook her head in her wheelchair, as the woman next to her wept into her arm.
“We always knew this was a possibility,” said Robert Sullivan, Veronica’s grandfather. “I’m thinking a dark knight rises and infiltrates the jurors.”
Sullivan said the gunman’s life sentence makes the family’s “gaping wound” even worse. He said at least one juror “infiltrated” the jury to make sure the death penalty wasn’t reached, no matter what.
“The thought that this monster gets to have visitation with his parents and gets to receive mail and pictures … is hard to accept,” Phillips told reporters outside the courthouse.
“Our loved ones were ripped from us. They were slaughtered in that movie theater,” she said.
A police officer in the courtroom wept as the verdicts were read. Another let out a sigh when Veronica’s name was read.
After the verdicts were read, Samour met with jurors. Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler met with victims and families in an adjacent courtroom.
Several victims and families headed straight to their cars in the courthouse parking lot, their heads bowed, without speaking to reporters.
One of the jurors, Juror 17, said outside the courthouse that the deliberations were very emotional and called it a “life-changing experience” to serve on the panel. She declined to provide her name, but she said she is a real estate contract attorney.
She said nine jurors favored a death sentence for Holmes, one female juror was firmly opposed to the death penalty for him and two other jurors were uncertain. They realized there was little chance of changing the one juror’s mind, Juror 17 said.
“The issue of mental illness was everything for the one who did not want to impose the death penalty,” she said.
“There’s a narrow definition of insanity in Colorado, and we did not feel the defendant was insane at the time that he committed the crimes,” the juror said.
“I think some of the jurors, it’s much, much more difficult than others,” Juror 17 said. “Just typical of a group of 12. I think some of us are handling it pretty well and others are taking it really hard.”
Afterward, Brauchler met with reporters and began reciting the names of all 12 shooting victims. He expressed disappointment, but he said: “Those jurors did a hell of a job. They were called upon to do things that a lot of people wouldn’t do.”
He added: “Though I’m disappointed with the outcome, I’m not disappointed with the process. … I still think death is justice for what that guy did but the system said otherwise and I honor that.”
“I saw such strength. I saw such resolute. I saw such incredible passion,” Brauchler said of meeting theater shooting survivors.
“I am responsible for this decision and responsible for whatever part we got in this case,” Brauchler later said.
“There will never be closure for these families, for these victims,” said Aurora Police Chief Nicholas Metz. “They will carry the scars. They will carry the pain.”
Holmes will be formally sentenced at another hearing on Aug. 24-26, when victims and families will have another opportunity to address the court. Holmes, who declined to speak to the jurors during his trial, also will have another chance to make a statement.
The last time a Colorado jury returned a death sentence was more than six years ago.
Earlier Friday, jurors asked the judge for a television and a DVD player to watch one of the gruesome pieces of evidence in the trial: A 45-minute video taken inside the theater before victims were removed. The video showed victims where they fell, amid shell casings, blood and popcorn.
The verdict on punishment for one of the worst mass shootings in American history is a decision more than 1,000 days in the making.
Early on July 20, 2012, Holmes burst into Theater 9 at the Century Aurora complex dressed in head-to-toe armor and began shooting. By the time he had finished — after only a minute or two — he had fired 76 shots and slain 10 people. Two more people, including a 6-year-old girl, died while police officers rushed them to help.
Those killed were Jonathan Blunk, AJ Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Ghawi, John Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alex Teves and Rebecca Wingo
The shooting also wounded at least 70 others, through gunfire, shrapnel or other means.
During the guilt phase of the trial, defense attorneys argued that Holmes was mentally ill — multiple doctors have diagnosed him with a disorder in the schizophrenia family — and that the shooting was a tragic act of insanity. In July, jurors rejected that argument and convicted Holmes on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and explosives possession.
In the start-then-stop sentencing trial that followed, the same jurors deliberated three times. After the first, they concluded that the murders were so heinous that Holmes should be eligible for the death penalty. After the second they decided that Holmes’ mental illness and the crime-free and placid — if withdrawn — life that Holmes lived prior to the killings weren’t enough to outweigh the awfulness of the killings.
The third, just-concluded deliberation asked the jurors not to make a legal finding but a moral one: What is justice for such a crime?
In his closing arguments, Brauchler emphasized the enormity of the crime and echoed the words he spoke more than two years ago when he first announced his decision to seek capital punishment.
“You can bring justice to him,” Brauchler told the jurors. “And for James Eagan Holmes, justice is death.”
In her closing argument, defense attorney Tamara Brady urged jurors to spare Holmes from execution because of his mental illness.
“The death penalty doesn’t bring anyone back,” she said. “It doesn’t make anyone feel better. It just adds to the death count.”
The verdict is not the final word on the case.
Judge Carlos Samour Jr. must formally impose the life sentences at a later hearing. Family members of the slain victims will have a chance then to address Samour about their loss, but they won’t be allowed to speak directly to Holmes. Holmes will also be given the chance to speak.
John Ingold: 303-954-1068, email@example.com or twitter.com/johningold
Staff writers Noelle Phillips, Jesse Paul, Elizabeth Hernandez, John Aguilar, David Migoya and Joe Vaccarelli contributed to this report.