James Holmes

James Holmes during his first court appearance on July 23. Was he 'greenbaumed'?
Accused Colorado gunman James Holmes may have phoned a University of Colorado operator just nine minutes before the shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises that killed 12 people, a defense attorney said on Thursday.

Holmes' attorney, Tamara Brady, raised the possibility of such a call during a pretrial hearing in the case while questioning Dr. Lynne Fenton, a University of Colorado psychiatrist who had treated Holmes before the July movie house massacre.

"Did you know that James Holmes called that number nine minutes before the shooting started?" Brady asked Fenton, referring to a number for a campus operator.

Fenton responded that she did not know.

Holmes, a former neuroscience graduate student, is accused of opening fire on July 20 at a midnight screening of the recent Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado. In addition to those who died, 58 people were wounded in the attack.

Prosecutors have painted a picture of Holmes as a young man whose once promising academic career was in tatters as he failed graduate school oral board exams in June and one of his professors suggested he may not have been a good fit for his competitive PhD program.

The hearing on Thursday was called by Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester to determine whether prosecutors can have access to a package, which contained a notebook, that Holmes mailed to Fenton one day before the shooting.

The parcel was not found until several days later.

Defense attorneys say the contents fall under doctor-client privilege between Holmes and Fenton. The hearing adjourned for the day before Sylvester finished taking evidence on the issue.

Media reports have said that Fenton reported Holmes to a campus threat assessment team and a campus police officer over concerns about her patient. Prosecutors told the court last week that Holmes had made threats that were reported to police.

They have said Holmes lost his access to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus after making unspecified threats to a professor on June 12, after which he began a voluntary withdrawal from his program.

Prosecutors said Holmes, 24, began "a detailed and complex plan" to commit murder and obtain an arsenal of guns and protective armor after he was denied access to campus facilities.

Additional reporting by Mary Slosson; Writing by Dan Whitcomb