Judge orders shooter Robert Dear to be forcibly medicated

In November 2015, a gunman drove to a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood and opened fire before bursting into the facility and continuing to shoot. Three people were killed and nine were injured. Robert Lewis Cher Jr., the man charged with the attack, reportedly mumbled “no more baby parts” during his arrest.

Cher, a self-proclaimed “baby warrior”, has been charged with 179 crimes, including murder and attempted murder. But nearly seven years after the massacre, Dear, who suffers from a form of delusional disorder, has repeatedly been found unfit to stand trial.

On Monday, however, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Blackburn issued an order that prosecutors say could break the deadlock, ruling that the government can force Dear, 64, to take antipsychotic drugs that prosecutors say experts, will likely make him fit to stand a federal trial. . Competence is measured by the ability of an accused to understand the consequences of the proceedings and to assist in the defense.

Since his first court appearances, Dear has frequently interrupted legal proceedings with outbursts, telling a hearing, “There is no trial.” Due to his mental state and determination that he was incompetent to stand trial, Colorado’s murder case against Dear was stalled. But in 2019, Dear was indicted on 68 federal charges, many of them for alleged violations of the Clinic Entrances Freedom of Access Act, intended to protect people seeking and providing services at reproductive health facilities.

As with the state case, an evaluation of Dear determined he was unfit to stand federal trial, and Blackburn last September ordered Dear to be placed in a mental institution where he could be monitored. Medical experts later determined that Dear’s competence could not be restored without medication, prosecutors said. But Dear has so far refused to take the drugs, according to the judge’s latest order.

In December, prosecutors asked that this drug be given to Dear against her will, so that a trial could have a chance to proceed.

Cher opposed the action. At a hearing in August, according to the Associated Press, he said: “It’s my brain that’s at stake. They want to turn me into a zombie. His defense team also argued that the drug could make his life worse. blood pressure and cholesterol, the AP reported.His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment for The Washington Post early Wednesday.

On Monday, Blackburn sided with the prosecution, saying Dear’s health was unlikely to be adversely affected by the drugs and that prosecutors had a “significant interest” in seeing the case move forward. He said the drug should be administered “involuntarily and forcibly if necessary”.

Since 2003, there have been more than 130 federal cases in which a judge has considered a defendant’s motion for involuntary medication, Slate reported in June. In 62% of cases, the request was granted.

Courts have authority to order involuntary medications under 2003 United States Supreme Court precedent Sell ​​c. United States, which established the “sell test” for courts to determine whether a defendant found unfit to stand trial should be forcibly medicated. The prosecution must have a significant interest in advancing the case; the involuntary medication must considerably favor these interests; it must be necessary to promote these interests; and it must be determined that the drug will not harm the health of the accused.

Susan McMahon, a clinical law professor at Arizona State University who has studied forced drug orders closely, told the Post that in most cases, courts have interpreted the test too broadly. That leaves some mentally ill defendants facing nonviolent charges of being forcibly medicated, she said.

Where the law failed “is that the courts have taken a very broad view of what qualifies as a serious crime,” McMahon said, adding that few of the cases she investigated involved physical abuse, let alone homicides.

The effect, she said, leaves people with mental illness stuck in jail, waiting for the process to unfold – some, as long as the sentences they receive. Then all of a sudden you have individuals going through the whole process, they go to trial, and even if they’re convicted, they’re just released,” having already served their sentence, she said, adding that some are not. even condemned.

But McMahon said Dear’s case, which involves murder allegations, is different.

“It’s the kind of case where I think…we need to be able to pursue in order to get some sort of resolution,” she said.

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