A U.S. District judge on Friday ordered admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. to undergo another psychological exam to determine if he is competent to stand trial in the November 2015 rampage that killed three people and wounded nine others at a Colorado Springs clinic.
The ruling could lead to a possible determination on the next steps for Dear, 62, whose federal case has been in a standstill for nearly a year, due to his mental incompetency, despite state psychiatrists repeatedly finding Dear too delusional for trial.
Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix decided that there should be a fresh competency exam, as the prosecution requested nearly a year ago, to get “the most complete record possible” in regard to Dear’s mental state.
Mix called the state’s evaluations “essentially unimpeachable,” but said her decision was influenced by “unusual circumstances,” including Dear’s repeated claims that he is competent to stand trial and his refusal to cooperate with state psychiatrists since his last evaluation in January 2019.
Dear, who attended the hearing virtually, interrupted arguments by the federal prosecutors and defense repeatedly, despite the judge’s admonishment that his comments “were not particularly helpful.”
“What I did was a complete success. … I saved babies’ lives, I saved babies’ lives, and I would do it again!” he yelled. He also asked whether he could fire his lawyers if he was ruled competent.
Federal prosecutors argued that Dear undergo another psychological exam, claiming that the outdated state exam could not adequately inform the court about Dear’s “current condition.”
“Mr. Dear has the right to be treated like a competent adult under the law and that the complete and current record shows that he is not competent of the law,” said attorney Pegeen Rhyne.
Dear’s attorneys argued against another evaluation, claiming that there was no “legitimate reason” for it.
“It has been unanimous …,” said attorney Mark Fleming. “The five evaluators all say the same thing: the odds that Mr. Dear spontaneously remitting to some form of competency is vanishingly small.”
Federal prosecutors have said in court filings that Dear’s prior mental health evaluations, by the state, were “problematic” and “flawed,” citing Dear’s continuing lack of cooperation with his evaluations.
A federal grand jury handed him a new 68-count indictment in December, an apparent end-run around his stalled state prosecution.
In Friday’s hearing, he accused the psychiatrists of conspiring to “put him in a nut house.”
Dear was arrested at the end of the five-hour standoff Nov. 27, 2015, at the city’s Planned Parenthood clinic, during which he allegedly killed a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer and two other people. He has admitted to the shootings before, once proclaiming himself a “warrior for the babies” while appearing in 4th Judicial District court when being read the 179 charges against him.
The prosecution has been sidelined since a judge’s ruling in early 2016 that Dear is too delusional to understand the charges against him. His competency has been reviewed at 90-day intervals ever since.
Dear, 62, will be transported to a prison facility for another evaluation and a hearing will be scheduled upon its completion, Mix said.
The judge imposed a stay on the court’s order for 10 days for counsel to discuss a plan regarding Dear’s transportation to a prison facility, explaining that the transportation of prisoners during the pandemic can raise safety concerns.