Holmes' psychiatric treatment could factor in trial

8:25 AM, Jul 30, 2012   |    comments
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James Holmes

The University of Colorado psychiatrist who was treating James Holmes, the man accused of the Aurora movie theater massacre, is medical director of student mental health services and a researcher into schizophrenia. Holmes' treatment and recognition of mental problems could play a crucial part in his trial.

Lynne Fenton, 51, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Colorado-Denver medical campus, was named in court papers filed by Holmes' public defender and made public Friday.

Holmes' lawyers said in the documents that he "was a psychiatric patient of Dr. Fenton" and that she was the intended recipient of a package sent by Holmes and discovered and seized by investigators in a campus mailroom after the rampage.

The disclosure was the first confirmation that Holmes had been treated for mental problems before the shootings July 20 in a mall multiplex theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora. Twelve people were killed and 58 injured, some severely.

His lawyers could assert insanity as a defense, use it to try to avoid the death penalty if he is convicted, or try to show he is mentally incompetent and unable even to stand trial.

"It's a defense attorney's dream to get word out that this guy saw a psychiatrist ... and was reaching out to get help," says Royal Oakes, a Los Angeles attorney and courtroom analyst.

Fenton could not be reached for comment.

Fenton is a former Air Force physician who later had a private practice in physical medicine, rehabilitation and acupuncture before completing a residence program in psychiatry at the university in 2008.

She has been medical director of the Student Mental Health Services since July 2009. She sees 15 to 20 graduate students per week for medication and psychotherapy, supervises psychiatric residents who treat students, and sees five to 10 general psychiatry patients, according to the university's website.

University records show she is on the faculty of the university medical school's Center for Schizophrenia Research and has lectured on bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorders.

Public records show she was issued a letter of admonition from the State Board of Medical Examiners in 2004 after acknowledging that she had prescribed medications for herself, her husband and an employee. She was ordered to complete a record-keeping course.

Holmes is scheduled to appear in court Monday for arraignment.

USA Today

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