James Holmes is mentally ill: lawyers

Attorney for Colo. shooting suspect James Holmes says the depth of Holmes' mental illness cannot be assessed.
Bill Robles

(CBS News) CENTENNIAL, Colo. - Lawyers for James Holmes, the man charged in the Batman movie massacre, said Thursday that Holmes is mentally ill. The disclosure came when the lawyers appeared with Holmes at a Colorado court hearing into the attack that left 12 dead and 58 wounded -- an attack that has left Holmes facing multiple murder charges that carry the death penalty.

It was a one hour and 20-minute hearing in which Holmes didn't seem to be engaged in any way. He sat with his hands shackled and folded in his lap, often just staring at the court house ceiling.

When Holmes first appeared in court July 23, his demeanor and expression raised questions about his mental state.

Colo. shooting suspect James Holmes' lawyers: He's mentally ill

In court Thursday, he seemed little changed. As Holmes stared wide eyed around the courtroom, defense attorney Daniel King referred to him as mentally ill.

He told the judge, "We cannot begin to assess the depth of Mr. Holmes' mental illness" until receiving more documents in discovery.

Holmes' orange hair is fading with darker curls growing beneath it. He has grown long sideburns and a mustache.

There was one outburst, a young woman with a shaved head shouted to the judge she had information vital to Holmes defense. Not even that seemed to get Holmes attention as he stared into space.

"He seems like he's crazy, yes definitely," said Miranda Norris, who was in the theater the night of the shooting. "I'm just very angry at him. I just can't understand how somebody can do this to people. How you can go out and murder people?"

Attorney for Colo. shooting suspect James Holmes says the depth of Holmes' mental illness cannot be assessed. Bill Robles

Defense attorneys Thursday also told the court Holmes sought help for his mental illness from University psychiatrist Lynne Fenton. CBS News has learned Fenton reported concerns about Holmes to University of Colorado police. The university has retained attorneys for both Dr. Fenton and the police officer. But with the gag order in place, no one will comment.

The main purpose of Thursday's hearing was to consider a media request to unseal court documents and to reduce the scope of the gag order. Both the prosecutor and defense attorney argued that it was most necessary to keep the information out of public view to ensure a fair trial. No decision was made on that issue Thursday.

Meanwhile, nearly three weeks after the shooting, six people are still in the hospital as of Thursday night. Two of them are in critical condition.

  • John Blackstone
    John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.