Prosecutor urges forcible medication in clinic shooting

FILE - Robert Dear talks to Judge Gilbert Martinez during a court appearance in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Dec. 9, 2015. A federal prosecutor urged a judge on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022 to order that a man charged with killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 be forcibly given anti-psychotic medication so his delusions could be quieted at least enough for him to finally be put on trial for the attack. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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DENVER (AP) — A federal prosecutor urged a judge on Thursday to order that a man charged with killing three people at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 be forcibly given anti-psychotic medication so his delusions could be quieted at least enough for him to finally be put on trial for the attack.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Pegeen Rhyne said the government had met the legal standard for showing that the drugs should be given to Robert Dear, 64, to try to make him mentally competent — able to understand legal proceedings and help his attorneys in his defense.

She argued a prison psychologist and psychiatrist who evaluated Dear at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons hospital in Springfield, Missouri, reported that 70% of their prisoners treated with the drugs have become competent, meeting the requirement that the drugs only be forcibly given if there is a substantial likelihood of success.

Two other studies on inmates with delusional disorder also found similar results, although the defense stressed that, given the rarity of delusional disorder, there is not much research on the topic.

Public defender Natalie Stricklin told U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn that the government's proposal to treat a man who believes the FBI has been following him for around 30 years and his defense team is working with them is “overly optimistic” and generalized.

She said it did not take into account how the drugs could affect him in particular because of his age and his health problems, including untreated high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Government experts testified Dear could be given drugs to treat those conditions. However, Dear has refused to take those medications and Stricklin said it was not clear whether Blackburn could also order Dear to be given those too.

“I suggest the court should not strip him of all medical agency,” Stricklin said.

The government can also try to try to have inmates forcibly medicated if they are considered a danger to themselves or others but prosecutors are not claiming that Dear is.

Dear has previously declared himself a “warrior for the babies” and also expressed pride in the “success” of his attack on the clinic during one of many outbursts during the first day of a three-day hearing in federal court this week on whether he should be forcibly medicated. Blackburn later warned him to remain quiet or he would be removed from court.

Federal prosecutors allege that Dear intended to wage “war” against the clinic because it offered abortion services, arming himself with four semi-automatic SKS rifles, five handguns, two other rifles, a shotgun, propane tanks and 500 rounds of ammunition. He allegedly began shooting outside the clinic before getting inside by shooting his way through a door, according to his federal indictment.

Two of the people killed in the attack were accompanying friends to the clinic — Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and was a father of two, and Jennifer Markovsky, 36, a mother of two who grew up in Oahu, Hawaii. The third person killed was University of Colorado Colorado Springs campus police officer Garrett Swasey, who responded to the clinic after hearing there was an active shooter.

Prosecutors have ruled out seeking the death penalty against Dear, who is charged under the federal 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, and is instead facing three life sentences if convicted.

Blackburn said he would issue his decision later in writing.