James Holmes' psychiatric care opens new questions into background checks

Soon after James Holmes was taken into custody in connection with the theater massacre in Aurora, Colo., authorities announced that Holmes’ only encounter with police was in conjunction with a traffic violation, allowing him to pass the criminal background checks required to purchase firearms. But new reports claiming that Holmes was being treated by a psychiatrist open new questions into gun control and background checks.

Court documents filed by Holmes’ defense team claim that Homes was undergoing treatment by Dr. Lynne Fenton, medical director of the University of Colorado’s student mental health services.


Federal law prohibits sales of firearms to “individuals who have been adjudicated as mentally ill or have been committed to a mental institution.” Neither of these scenarios seems to fit Holmes’ case, however.

Word that a notebook containing references to a shooting had been sent by Holmes to Fenton leaked to the media earlier this week. Defense attorneys have claimed that the leak could jeopardize Holmes’ right to a fair trial. “The government’s disclosure of this confidential and privileged information has placed Mr. Holmes’ constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial by an impartial jury at serious jeopardy,” the defense wrote in its motion.

A medical ethicist interviewed by KTSM News in El Paso, Texas, disputes the defense team’s assertion and suggests that any doctor-patient privilege is nullified once a crime has been committed.

Public sentiment on Twitter certainly doesn’t weigh in Holmes’ favor regardless of his mental condition.

The idea that mental illness as a defense is somehow proof of racism is, sadly, still going strong.

  • Suzanne Accashian

    None of this is a racial issue. Terrorism has only been claimed when the assailant yells Allah Akbar and Gang crime is only yelled when it is evident. There are white people who are held like Timothy McVae and the like. This young man has mental illness. Mental Illness does not allow him to go free but will determine capital punishment and whether a mental facility or general prison. What happened is awful however do not mix mental illness with terror whether home grown or gang activity. And for the record gangs exist with all ethnic groups.

    • http://www.facebook.com/brotherjohntheleo John Vaughn

      You Madam, are about to be verbally throttled to within an inch of your life, for presenting sane thought on this issue.

      Good luck.

      • http://twitter.com/drefman Dref

        No she’s not, why would she? We love sane thought in here. Maybe you’ve confused what she said to your inane comments on here, you have presented little sane thought. Not only that, but you come on here and attack and insult people and then whine and cry and pull out the “why must you hateful people attack me” nonsense when people defend themselves and criticize you.

    • Wesley P. Mallett

      I agree with Suzanne. The law should be colorblind and lock up all total losers who commit crimes. Using the murder of 12 people to fuel unapologetic cry baby support for minority, or white, criminals is juvenile and low. Lift up the laws of the United States, do not lift up the lowly criminals, regardless of their color. Do not make excuses for lowly criminals, or use YOUR racism as fuel for the persecution of the mentally ill, who have not committed a crime. Discriminate against criminals, and do not be a lowlife connecting this to gangs and terrorism. Why not empower the police to exterminate gangs, then you have nothing to talk about. Exterminate people who commit gun crimes, so they will stop breeding. They are in all colors.

  • topcat1957

    So how far down that road do we go? If your doctor asks you how much stress you’re under at work, does this also count as psychological evaluation? Because that’s what it is. Does it mean anyone who see a psychiatrist? How about a psychologist? What if you’re given a psych evaluation and it says you’re fine, does the visit to the psychologist trip the gun ban requirement?
    Its fine to have the discussion. But let’s not leap without looking. Banning gun ownership to a sizable subset of the population opens them up to violent attack. If a psychologist says an individual is of sound mind and tests show no serious mental illness, do we prohibit them from owning firearms? There are hundreds of thousands or more of professionals who have had professional psychological care for various issues, some lifelong, and have carried firearms their whole adult lives without issue. Something to consider.

    • Wesley P. Mallett

      1 in 6 Americans will be treated for a psychiatric condition, and 5 of them will recover completely. it is understood that violent criminals are insane but the reverse is not true, the insane are not all violent criminals. castrate crime, not the mentally ill. before WWII the USA led the world in forced castrations of the mentally ill, until the war department used this against the Nazi regime. Fear is not a solution to stopping crime. Criminals will always ignore the law. More laws is not the solution. Why not enforce the laws we already have.

      • http://twitter.com/drefman Dref

        I agree with you in the main, but where are you getting your statistics? I seriously doubt that most countries before WW2 kept good records on forced castrations and that 1 in 6 Americans being treated part seems really over blown. According to who?

    • http://twitter.com/drefman Dref

      We all know what this is really about, it’s just an excuse to get more gun control laws on the books.

  • Craig Schwarzbek

    Seeing a psychiatrist does not mean someone is crazy. There are many crazy people in prisons. The insanity plea is only effective if the person does an act where they prove that something temporarily caused them to loose control . James Holmes has shown intent, planning and an awareness of what he was doing. With all that crazy or not, he can be tried and found guilty. Dahmer with all his mental issues was still found guilty. His seeing a psychiatrist doesn’t automatically make insane. If he is found unfit to stand trial they hold him in a mental facility until that time that he can stand trial for his crimes. If you think prison is a bad place, visit a facility for the criminally insane. My guess is he will end up in one of those.

  • Jeffrey Rutter

    Just because someone sees a psychiatrist, does not mean that they have an illness that would rise to the level that they are a danger to self or others. It also does not provide a defense under the law. Very broadly, an “Insanity Defense” requires that one be incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, or to be acting under what is called an “irresistible impulse”. So far as I have heard or read, that has not been determined. As for his actions being “An act of Madness”; many people have committed heinous acts, and been adjudged not mentally ill. I worked in the Mental Health field in CA, and I have seen seriously mentally ill people who would not hurt a fly, and met some as sane as anyone else who’d slit your throat in a heartbeat.

    • Wesley P. Mallett

      i am a consumer of mental health services, and I won 10 citizenship awards. what you say is true. some people mouth off without any thought, they barely got a C in elementary math, so they cannot see the consequences of their ill guided emotional responses to gross crimes. criminals were breaking the law. emotional ignorant mobs want to attack the mentally ill after a murder. most mentally ill people are harmless docile and more peaceful and ethical than a US Marine. When I was in the military one of my instructors was bragging about being a rapist. some peoples demands to attack the mentally ill are so broad and vague they would disbar anyone having …marriage counseling, a psychiatric treatment, from buying a gun. to prevent crimes, begin by strengthening law enforcement

      • http://twitter.com/drefman Dref

        I agree with you, expect for that unnecessary slur against the U.S. Marines, very few of whom who are harmful, violent and unethical. Also, in regards to your instructor, did it ever occur to you he may have been a bit weird or just BSing?

    • http://www.facebook.com/adam.wiener.186 Adam Wiener

      Not only that, but lets not forget that the Virginia Tech shooter from a few years ago WAS
      adjudicated as mentally ill by a federal judge and the Department of Justice failed to find this in a background check not once, but twice, allowing him to purchase firearms to use in a mass murder. I.e.–> The problem isn’t the laws on the books or lack there of, it is the failure to enforce those laws on the books and the failure of mental health professionals and others around a person to report a person expressing violent behavior or fantasies.

      • http://twitter.com/gj12ange Gil Jo San

        I think you just hit the right button on this. I was about to say that this is a Law enforcement problem. They should do their job well. But on the other hand I think that no matter what we do whether it is a gun, a knife or a bomb or any kind of weapon if someone wanted to hurt someone or a lot of people they can find a way. It is just that it so happen that the choices are guns. We cannot blame it on the the Gun. But we can certainly blame it on Law enforcement too or whoever do the back ground check.

    • Revo1117

      Perfectly stated!

  • http://www.facebook.com/brotherjohntheleo John Vaughn

    Geez louise, Michelle ! ! ! ! First you slog and rant that we’re seeing far too much of the guy’s face on the TV, and now here you are posting it up again for the world to once again have to look at it.

    You were two hours away in CO Springs, and you missed your “exclusive” interview. LET IT GO, please.

    Point ? If he’s Middle Eastern, he’s a terrorist. If he’s AfrAmer, he’s a thug. If he’s White, he’s psychologically ill. What’s the problem ? LET IT GO ! ! ! !

    • http://twitter.com/drefman Dref

      First off, Michelle does not micromanage what Twitchy does, and second I hardly think one picture of the guy in a story about him is the same as the saturation we are seeing on TV.

  • 1estobrevis1

    For all the bozos (Anderson Cooper et al) calling for gun control that would prevent people receiving psychological treatment from getting guns, (1) it would require a constitutional amendment, inasmuch as such a law would deprive someone of liberty without due process of law in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (which is why the law currently requires that a person have been “adjudicated” mentally defective, and (2) It would discourage people from seeking psychological care for fear that their therapists might overreact to something they say in a session and put them on some sort of watch list curtailing their rights. Other than that, great idea, dipshits!

  • Guest

    Those who are crying “racism” are aware that mental illnesses effect everyone regardless of race and gender right? And that playing the race card so prematurely makes them look racist?

    As for James Holmes- I don’t doubt the man has psychological issues. However, he can only be found insane if he doesn’t know what he did was wrong at the time. I’m confident he’ll be fit to stand trial and sent to prison. He won’t be spending anytime in a mental facility.

  • MikeRios

    To prove that someone was mentally ill and therefore not guilty by reason of mental defect you must prove that the defendant did not understand that his actions were illegal and that his actions could cause him to be charged with a crime. This won’t work because it is more than evident that this idiot planned very carefully to commit this crime. He also had plans to evade arrest or responsibility to these crimes by attempting to hide his actions when his apartment was supposed to burn down, burning all evidence of planning. He wore body armor to survive possible returned fire, he caused a diversion with his smoke bombs, he blocked open the door to the theater to get his weapons and come back in to kill and maim. No, this punk is as devious as McVeigh was when he destroyed the Marrow building in Oklahoma City and he deserves the same fate. Too bad it didn’t happen in Texas, we execute creeps like him quickly and he more than likely wouldn’t have made it out of the theater without a few bullets in his gizzard. Give him a fair trial and then hang him at noon.

  • Doctr Sally

    I think it’s very possible that James Holmes was medicated into insanity by this psychiatrist with many, many medications, possibly even experimental drugs not yet on the market.

  • darncat

    they need to investigate the psychiatrist.
    i heard she had already been busted giving medication illegally,
    including ambien. isn’t that what killed micheal jackson?

    its quite possible the wrong medication and therapy can cause
    a person with some mental issues to lose their gripon reality.
    you have to admit this case doesn’t seem to fit the profile.
    you would expect an obsession with an extremist position,
    a suicidal situation or even a fame seeking nutcase,
    but none of those seem to apply. its impossible to make sense
    of senseless crimes and tragedies like this;
    still this is more confusing than any i can remember…

    i really believe the police need to widen their investigation
    to make sure to find anyone who may have been responsible.
    we will never know without an investigation. i don’t know if its the case,
    but if it is, we need to make sure universities aren’t recklessly
    experimenting on their mentally ill students!