James Holmes Called Hospital Before Colorado Theater Shooting: Lawyer

jamesholmes 072612 01Sep12

James Holmes, the 24-year-old neuroscience student accused of carrying out a deadly Colorado theater shooting this summer, may have tried to contact his psychiatrist before the incident.

Public defense attorney Tamara Brady said in a court hearing Thursday that a call to the University of Colorado Hospital just minutes before the July 20 shooting could have come from Holmes.

"Do you know whether James Holmes called that number nine minutes before the shooting started?" Brady asked Holmes' psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Fenton, to which she replied she didn't know.

When asked if patients were given another number at which to contact her in case of an emergency, Fenton said yes. Brady said if the call was made by Holmes, it proved the two maintained a doctor-client relationship that could ensure certain documents would remain privileged.

Fenton was Holmes' psychiatrist before the two severed their doctor-patient relationship in mid-June, she testified Thursday. Fenton said she went to school officials about "concerns" she had of a violent streak in the California-native before the shooting.

The school, which had already barred Holmes from campus after he threatened a professor, did not pursue the information from Fenton because he was no longer a student, having dropped out after he failed an oral exam in June.

Hospital marketing director Brad Fixler confirmed a call was made to the general line minutes before the shooting, but could not say who was on the other end.

"I do know that on July 20, at 12:31 a.m., we did receive a seven-second call," Fixler said in court. "The caller said nothing and hung up. The switchboard operator answered and they hung up."

Urgent 911 calls began streaming in to the hospital only minutes later, around 12:39 a.m. The calls were from victims and witnesses who observed a violent shooting at the Aurora Century 16 theater's midnight premier of the Batman franchise's "The Dark Knight Rises."

Although Fenton denies the professional relationship continued into July, defense attorney's are trying to ensure any information exchanged between her and Holmes after his exit from the school remains inadmissible as part of doctor-patient privilege.

Specifically, rumor of a notebook Holmes sent to Fenton outlining the shooting have thrown prosecutors and pres into a frenzy. However, the case's judge has not yet deemed whether it will be allowed as evidence or privileged information considered part of Holmes' "therapy."

On Thursday, further details about Holmes' actions before the shooting also emerged. Earlier on July 20, he bought a ticket for the midnight Batman showing, sitting briefly in the theater before propping open an exit door that lead outside. This time - just under 30 minutes into the film - would have been when the hospital call was made.

During the attack, the shooter entered theater 9 and fired multiple rounds at movie goers. Shortly after the shooting, Holmes was quietly arrested outside of the theater near his car. He offered no resistance and was sporting a bullet-proof vest, helmet and gas mask and bright red hair mimicking Batman villain "The Joker."

Holmes has been charged with 142 criminal counts, including 24 counts of first-degree murder (two for each victim killed) and 116 counts of attempted murder (two for each person injured). He also faces one count of committing a crime of violence and one count of possession of an explosive device.

In the state of Colorado, one first-degree murder charge results in a minimum sentence of life in prison. But in this case, the defendant will most likely face the death penalty. The next court hearing is set for September 20.

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