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Accused Colorado gunman tried to harm himself: reports

Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes (L) sits with public defender Tamara Brady during his first court appearance in Aurora, Colorad
Colorado shooting suspect James Eagan Holmes (L) sits with public defender Tamara Brady during his first court appearance in Aurora, Colorad

By Keith Coffman

CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - Accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes was taken to the hospital on Tuesday for a medical condition that left him unable to attend a court hearing set for two days later, his lawyers said, with local media reporting he had tried to harm himself.

The lawyers, explaining in vague terms in an emergency hearing on Wednesday the sudden developments that sent him to the hospital, requested a delay in a routine pre-trial hearing due on Thursday. There was no word on Holmes' current condition.

"What occurred was midday yesterday. We were informed of a situation that involved a trip to a hospital," Holmes' attorney Tamara Brady said in court, giving scant further details but adding, "It's not as simple as a migraine."

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

The rampage was one of the bloodiest acts of gun violence in the United States in recent years.

Law enforcement sources told local television station CBS4 that Holmes made multiple "half-hearted" suicide attempts over the past few days, including one in which he ran into a wall in his jail cell and another in which he jumped off his bed.

Another local television station, ABC7, reported that Holmes was hospitalized after intentionally pounding his head on the walls and floor of his cell.

The station quoted sources familiar with the case as saying his actions were an indication of Holmes' mental state, but did not constitute suicide attempts.

A judge approved the emergency defense request for a delay in the case, and set a new hearing for December 10. Holmes' lawyers, in filing their request, did not provide details of Holmes condition, citing legal, medical and psychological privilege.

INSANITY DEFENSE?

"As a result of developments over the past 24 hours, Mr. Holmes is in a condition that renders him unable to be present in court for tomorrow's hearing," Holmes' lawyers wrote in the delay motion.

Another of Holmes' attorneys, public defender Daniel King, did not respond to reporters who asked if Holmes was still in the hospital.

Prosecutors had earlier objected to a delay, saying it should be denied unless more detailed information was provided on Holmes' condition than was contained in the defense request.

"It is not clear whether it is claimed he is suffering from a physical medical condition, a mental condition, whether he is suffering from a negative emotional reaction to his circumstances, or anything other than he has some kind of 'condition,'" prosecutors wrote in their response.

Prosecutors have depicted Holmes as a young man whose once promising academic career was in tatters at the time of the shooting. He failed oral board exams for graduate school in June and a professor suggested he may not have been a good fit for his competitive doctorate program.

Holmes then began a voluntary withdrawal from the school and amassed an arsenal of weapons as part of "a detailed and complex" plan to commit mass murder, prosecutors charge.

Holmes has yet to enter a plea in the case, and prosecutors have not indicated whether they will seek the death penalty.

Holmes' lawyers, who analysts have suggested may be laying the groundwork for an insanity defense, have said Holmes suffers from mental illness and sought to get help before the shooting.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, asked about Holmes' condition, told Reuters he could not release any information, citing privacy issues and jail security.

(Writing and additional reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Jim Loney and Peter Cooney)

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