James Holmes case: Dr. Lynne Fenton's trial by media fire

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Dr. Lynne Fenton.
Much of the media's focus in the second wave of reporting on the Aurora theater shooting has been on Dr. Lynne Fenton, a psychiatrist revealed to have cared for accused killer James Holmes. Recent coverage has whip-sawed from Fenton tributes supported by CU documents on view below to claims she could have asked for a mental health hold on Holmes but didn't. Thanks to a gag order, however, we only know a small part of the story.

Fenton's name first appeared in a July 27 document filed by Holmes's defense team. Several days later, strangely enough, part of the filing pertaining to their doctor-patient relationship was censored -- and Holmes's attorneys want pretty much everything that went on between them ruled off limits. But, to put it mildly, the news was already out.

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Steffan Andrews.
Shortly thereafter, word came that Fenton had been disciplined by a state board in 2005. But while the headlines made this action seem like a big deal, her ex-husband, Steffan Andrews, who's still friendly with her, revealed that the matter was actually quite minor. According to him, a former employee accused of prescription fraud tried to implicate her in wrongdoing, but the only violations investigators could find after a long inquiry involved things like providing him Claritin for hay fever and some Ambien after a European vacation without keeping proper charts.

Shortly thereafter came reports that Fenton had alerted a CU threat-assessment team about Holmes in the weeks before the attack. More recently, 7News quoted sources saying she could have asked for Holmes to be put on a 72-hour mental-health hold in early June but didn't -- an assertion elaborated on in a fascinating New York Times piece.

The Times reports that Holmes allegedly texted an acquaintance about a condition called dysphoric mania, a condition associated with bipolar disorder that seldom produces violence but can occasionally cause some patients to experience agitation and "paranoid delusions" -- after which he warned her to stay away because he was "bad news." Additionally, the paper cites an anonymous official as saying, "Nothing Mr. Holmes disclosed to Dr. Fenton rose to the threshold set by Colorado law to hospitalize someone involuntarily."

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James Holmes during the only court hearing to date that has allowed photography.
Against this backdrop, the Denver Post published a long article about how well-liked and respected Fenton is -- and there's certainly nothing in the documents CU has released about her to contradict the impression. The school is under orders not to share anything directly related to Holmes or the case, but it has offered up Fenton's complete employment file, an inclusive series of documents featuring everything from a letter about her residency at Northwestern in the late 1980s to her curriculum vitae.

The latter details her education (University of California Davis, Chicago Medical School), professional gigs (she was a medical acupuncturist in Greenwood Village for a time), instructional lectures (among them "Pain -- Diagnosis and Treatment"), honors and awards (she won a "Medal of Commendation" from the Air Force in 1993) and papers she's authored or co-authored (like 1990's "Prevention of thromboembolism after spinal cord injury using low-molecular-weight herapin").

What do these facts have to do with the Holmes case? Little, if anything, in all likelihood. But they're some of the only concrete details we have about Fenton, who's an intriguing figure in this case partly because she may never be able to share everything she knows -- which would be fine by those defending James Holmes.

Continue to see the CU documents released about Dr. Lynne Fenton.

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My Voice Nation Help

Dr. Fenton must provide documenary evidence that she formally terminated her professional relationship with James Holmes, a patient in crisis, On June 11, according to her profession's and Colorado's standards. Otherwise he was still her patient, as he seems to have thought, when the shootings occured.

Terrence Salley
Terrence Salley

she can't share legally. Psych records are covered under Dr./Patient confidentiality. C'mon Westword.


My sincerest condolences to the Doc , here . Like she KNEW that Holmes was going into a theater w/ a firearm resulting in APD shooting the place all up.....

Glenn Keil
Glenn Keil

If she doesn't share everything that she knows to convict his ass, then she should be held responsible also.

RobertChase topcommenter

Because of the gag order and the legal process, it is too early to assess Fenton's conduct, and you cite no damning evidence against her, though the defensive tone of the article in the Denver Post might suggest that she was under attack.  CPR too ran a puff piece on CU so distinctly defensive that I wondered what other than the shootings in Aurora motivated it.  What a stark contrast to local coverage is the article in the New York Times!  That one article reveals several times more about James Holmes than I have seen reported in Denver -- couldn't we dump the DP and have a small NYT news bureau here instead?  The NYT might be able to do a better job of reporting news in Denver from there than the Post does from the midlle of the City!

michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

 @elephant Very simply put, Elephant. We're going to make your post an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

 @RobertChase I agree that the New York Times piece was very impressive, Robert. Thanks.


 @RobertChase Fantastic blog ! To add to this confusion , do you feel an honest and thorough report will be released by ALL dept investigating , mainly forensics ???

Attendees to the show WERE in fact hit when the police entered ALL GUNS BLAZING !!!


 @DonkeyHotay Too much 'shwag' in the early years .

Or ,

the concession of concussions received from eight real fucking tough ,

'God' fearing , foster fathers that used me as the warm up before they

completed their rages , usually out on their wives...

With the help of both Dr. Phil & Dr. Oz , I am now able to own pets.....

Love ya Donk !

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