|James E. Holmes|
Lynne Fenton treated him while he was a student at the University of Colorado, Denver
James Holmes had homicidal thoughts and exhibited increasingly bizarre behavior, but the man who carried out a mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater never spoke of a plan to harm people, his psychiatrist testified Tuesday at Mr. Holmes’s murder trial.
Lynne Fenton treated Mr. Holmes for several months while he was in graduate school at the University of Colorado, Denver and shortly before he opened fire on a packed showing of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises,” killing 12 and injuring 70.
The testimony of Dr. Fenton, who has said nothing publicly about the case until now, has been heavily anticipated as she was one of the few people with whom Mr. Holmes shared his innermost thoughts leading up to the shooting in July 2012.
Dr. Fenton said that Mr. Holmes told her he had homicidal thoughts three to four times a day. She testified that Mr. Holmes’s hostile behavior and alarming statements in therapy eventually prompted her to alert a team of university officials and call his mother. But she said that because Mr. Holmes never spoke of a specific threat or targets, she couldn’t have had him institutionalized on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.
“He never met criteria for me to hospitalize him,” she said.
The relationship between Dr. Fenton and her former patient is a critical element of prosecutors’ contention that the former neuroscience student knew right from wrong at the time of the shooting, which unfolded in the Denver suburb of Aurora and was one of the bloodiest in U.S. history.
Mr. Holmes, who faces the death penalty, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. His public defenders have argued that he was in the throes of a schizophrenic episode during the shooting.
Dr. Fenton testified that Mr. Holmes had been referred to her in March 2012 by a social worker at the university’s mental-health center who he had contacted seeking treatment.
She said the social worker told her Mr. Holmes “was one of the most anxious people she ever had seen, that she thought he had obsessive compulsive disorder, that he had thoughts of killing people but she didn’t think he was imminently dangerous.”
Dr. Fenton said she saw Mr. Holmes roughly a half dozen times, prescribing him antianxiety and antidepressant medications.
He said little in therapy, Dr. Fenton said, and there were signals that something was amiss with Mr. Holmes, whom she described as exceptionally socially anxious. In June, after failing critical exams, he informed her nonchalantly that he planned to drop out of his graduate program and that he no longer wanted to continue therapy, she said.
In recent weeks, prosecutors also called two court-ordered psychiatrists to the stand, who recounted interviews they conducted with Mr. Holmes after the shooting from which they drew that Mr. Holmes was sane, albeit mentally ill.
The defense has yet to present its case in the trial.
Source: Wall Street Journal, Dan Frosch, June 16, 2015
Theater shooter's university psychiatrist set to testify
A mental health professional who was doing therapy with James Holmes before he carried out his deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater is expected to testify Tuesday in his death penalty trial.
Dr. Lynne Fenton saw Holmes 5 times in 2012 while he was a neuroscience graduate student at the University of Colorado.
She prescribed him medication for depression and anxiety, concerned that he had a social phobia after he confessed thoughts of killing people, according to testimony from other witnesses.
Prosecutors said Fenton didn't believe Holmes would act.
Her testimony is among the most highly anticipated of the trial, as Fenton has never spoken publicly about their sessions. She remains bound by the trial judge's gag order, and a civil suit says she should have done more to stop Holmes.
Holmes waived his patient-client privilege when he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, opening the door for her to take the stand.
Defense attorneys, who say Holmes suffers schizophrenia and was in the grips of a psychotic episode at the time of the July 20, 2012 attack, are expected to cross examine Fenton at length. 2 psychiatrists appointed by the court to examine Holmes concluded he was sane at the time.
Holmes is charged with killing 12 people, wounding 58 with gunfire and leaving 12 others injured. Questions remain about whether anyone could have stopped him.
Holmes said he pointedly kept Fenton uninformed as he plotted his attack. He never told her about the arsenal of weapons he was assembling. His elaborate schemes and to-do lists were kept in a journal that he didn't send to her until hours before his assault, and it lingered in a campus mailroom for days thereafter.
His list for their sessions included: "Prevent building false sense of rapport ... deflect incriminating questions ... can't tell the mind rapists plan."
But he did tell her and two other therapists at the university that he was having thoughts of killing people.
Fenton did contact a campus-wide threat assessment team in June 2012, more than a month before the attack and told a campus police officer about her concerns after Holmes sent her a threatening email. Fenton, however, rejected the officer's offer to arrest Holmes and place him on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, according to the civil suit.
In interviews with one of the two court-appointed doctors 2 years after the shooting, Holmes said he kept Fenton at bay. He didn't go out of his way to build rapport, seeing their relationship as artificial, he said.
"I kind of regret that she didn't lock me up so that everything could have been avoided," Holmes told Dr. William Reid.
Source: Associated Press, June 15, 2015
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