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Lawyers for accused Colorado theater gunman want leaks probed

Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes makes his first court appearance in Aurora, Colorado, July 23, 2012. REUTERS/RJ Sangosti/Pool
Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes makes his first court appearance in Aurora, Colorado, July 23, 2012. REUTERS/RJ Sangosti/Pool

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Attorneys for accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes are demanding an investigation into the release of a recent booking photo of their client and leaks about a notebook he sent to his psychiatrist, court documents showed on Wednesday.

Public defenders complained in the documents that a recent picture of Holmes released to the media violated a gag order imposed by Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester in the case.

Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student, is accused of opening fire at a suburban Denver movie theater during a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" on July 20, killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 58 others.

In a motion to the court, the defense asked the judge to order a probe into how and why the picture was taken and distributed to the media. It also asks the court to consider what sanctions might be "an appropriate response to this violation."

Holmes appeared at his last hearing with short-cropped brown hair, looking starkly different than in his initial mug shot and earlier court hearings where he sported tousled longer hair that was dyed red.

After that hearing, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office released a new photo of a Holmes with close-cropped hair.

Sylvester ruled that the booking photo issue will be addressed at Holmes' next court hearing on October 11. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson told Reuters he would "await ... the judge's evaluation of this matter."

In a separate filing, defense lawyers requested the judge impose sanctions on prosecutors for information about the contents of a package Holmes mailed that was leaked to Fox News days after the massacre, purportedly detailing plans for the rampage.

Initially, prosecutors sought to look at the package's contents, but defense attorneys objected, saying the parcel was mailed to psychiatrist Lynne Fenton, who once treated Holmes, and fell under doctor-patient privilege.

Prosecutors abruptly dropped their bid to review the package, but defense lawyers said it was obvious from information they have received that law enforcement leaked details of the parcel to Fox News, which they said impedes their client's right to a fair trial.

"The discovery received thus far supports the defense's concern that the government was responsible for leaking information about the contents of the package to the media," the motion said.

In documents released last week, a detective said he "fanned" through the contents of the notebook and that the package also contained "burnt currency." (Editing by Mary Slosson, Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman)

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