James Holmes court case: Aurora theater shooting suspect mentally ill, defense attorneys claim

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Attorneys for accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes said he's mentally ill during an Thursday afternoon court hearing in Centennial.

The defense is arguing insanity.

The suspect, James Holmes, 24, was at the hearing. Holmes didn't say anything or do anything of note, according to Marshall Zelinger, who was in the courtroom.

There were two victims in the courtroom.

News Organizations Seeking Court Documents

At the hearing, news media organizations went before a judge to seek access to court documents in the Colorado theater shooting case.

The news organizations are also asking the judge to scale back a sweeping gag order that bars the University of Colorado from releasing details about the alleged shooter, James Holmes. Holmes is a former student.

Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the shooting during a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie.

The July 20 shooting left 12 people dead and injured 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora.

Court officials say Holmes is expected to attend the hearing.

Steven Zansberg is the Denver lawyer representing the news organizations, including 7NEWS.

He told Colorado Public Radio's "Colorado Matters," the court should have the burden of proving releasing court documents would cause harm to the police investigation.

Zansberg said releasing court documents allows the public to see justice is being done and observe the process.

"Public scrutiny tends to make everyone involved in the process pay attention and act honestly," he told the station.

Former prosecutor and adjunct professor of law at the University of Denver, Karen Steinhauser told the station unsealing documents during an active investigation could harm prosecutors' ability to build a case against Holmes.

Steinhauser said as prosecutors continue to interview witnesses, it will become increasingly difficult to prove that the statements given are the witnesses' own knowledge versus something they may have heard in the media.

"People then, they are still in the process of trying to interview; would learn of some detail and some information, it might be difficult then to try to show that this witness was giving the information based on what they knew versus what they learned from reading [news reports]," Steinhauser told CPR.

She added opening the court file could taint the jury pool against Holmes.

Zansberg said prosecutors don't need to find a jury that's ignorant of the shooting.

"I'm not sure we could find 12 such people in Colorado," he said.

Prosecutors need only find 12 jurors who will uphold their oath to decide guilt or innocence based off the evidence that is presented in court, Zansberg said.

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