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Suspect treated by uni psychiatrist

The former graduate student accused of carrying out the Colorado cinema shooting that killed 12 was being treated by a psychiatrist at the university where he studied, court papers have revealed.

Defence lawyers for James Holmes, 24, made the disclosure in a court motion. It sought to discover the source of leaks to some media outlets that Holmes sent the psychiatrist a package containing a notebook with descriptions of an attack.

The package was seized by authorities on Monday after it was discovered in the post room at the University of Colorado, Denver. It is unclear if it was sent before the attack at the July 20 midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises that left 12 dead and dozens injured.

The motion said the leak violated a judge's gag order and jeopardised 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 in serious jeopardy," wrote the lawyers.

The motion added that the package contained communications between Holmes and his psychiatrist that should be shielded from public view. The document describes Holmes as a "psychiatric patient" of Dr Lynne Fenton.

Calls to Holmes' lawyer, Daniel King, were referred to the head of the Colorado State Public Defender's office, Douglas Wilson, who was out of the office.

The University of Colorado's website identifies Dr Fenton as the medical director of the school's student mental health services.

Authorities said Holmes legally purchased four guns before the attack at a Denver-area sporting goods stores - a semiautomatic rifle, a shotgun and two pistols. To buy the guns, Holmes had to pass background checks that can take as little as 20 minutes in Colorado.

State law bars from purchasing firearms people who have been found mentally defective by a judge or have been committed to a mental institution. The statute makes no restrictions on buyers who are being treated for possible mental illness.

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