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Lawyers in Colorado rampage case to square off over media leaks

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* Former neuroscience graduate student killed 12 in attack

* Defense argues Holmes right to fair trial jeopardized

By Keith Coffman

DENVER, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Prosecutors and attorneysdefending accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes returnto court on Thursday to spar over leaks to the news media, andthe status of a hearing that could provide details of themassacre.

Arapahoe County District Court Judge William Sylvester willhear the two issues in the latest of a series of pre-trialproceedings in the sensational murder case.

Holmes, a 24-year-old former neuroscience graduate student,is accused of opening fire inside a suburban Denver movietheater during a midnight screening of the Batman movie "TheDark Knight Rises' on July 20.

The rampage, one of the worst outbursts of U.S. gun violencein recent years, killed 12 people and wounded 58 others.

Public defenders said in court filings that Holmes' right toa fair trial was jeopardized when someone in law enforcementleaked details of a package that Holmes sent to a psychiatrist,in violation of a gag order imposed by Sylvester.

The parcel purportedly contains a notebook detailing plansfor the theater rampage, according to a Fox News report.

Holmes' lawyers said they have received 16,000 pages ofdocuments from prosecutors that they say support "the defense'sconcerns that the government was responsible for leakinginformation" about the package to the news media.

They are asking the judge to impose sanctions on prosecutorsfor the disclosures.

Prosecutors said they were unable to respond to the "vagueallegations" made by the defense, noting the motion does notidentify the specific information that public defenders arecomplaining about, or if the media reports were even true.

Sylvester will also hear from lawyers on Thursday on whethera preliminary hearing scheduled for next month will be held ontime, delayed, or if Holmes will waive his right to the hearingaltogether.

If the preliminary hearing is held, prosecutors will lay outdetails of the case so the judge can rule if there is enoughevidence against Holmes to bind him over for trial.

Prosecutors have depicted Holmes as a young man whose oncepromising academic career was in tatters. He failed graduateschool oral board exams in June, and one of his professorssuggested he may not have been a good fit for his competitivePh.D. program.

In open court and in motions filed in the case, prosecutorsaccuse Holmes of amassing an arsenal of weapons as part of "adetailed and complex plan" to commit mass murder.

On the night of the rampage Holmes bought a ticket to themovie then slipped outside, prosecutors said, armed himself andreturned to the theater, spraying moviegoers with gunfire.

Holmes' attorney, Daniel King, who analysts have saidappears to be laying the groundwork for a possible insanitydefense, has said his client suffers from an unspecified mentalillness and had tried to get help before the shooting.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham)

((Cynthia.johnston@thomsonreuters.com)(702 280 0094))

Keywords: USA SHOOTING/DENVER