DENVER – A mentally ill man charged with killing three people and wounding eight others at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 could become well enough to stand trial if he is forcibly given anti-psychotic medication, a prison psychologist and psychiatrist said Tuesday.
During a federal court hearing in Denver which Robert Dear interrupted proceedings several times with outbursts, psychologist Lea Ann Preston Baecht testified that there was a substantial likelihood medication would be able to treat his delusional disorder to a point where he would be able to participate in his case and help his defense, even if it did not completely get rid of his delusions.
Neither Preston Bacht nor Dr. Robert Sarrazin, who worked with her to evaluate Dear, 64, at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, thought psychotherapy alone would help Dear. Preston Bacht said Dear, 64, does not have an understanding of his illness, which she said is mainly marked by beliefs of being persecuted by others, including former President Barack Obama and the FBI.
“I don't believe there is a less intrusive option in Mr. Dear's case,” Preston Baecht said.
Dear responded by shouting “Marijuana," one of many comments from him during the hearing.
When Preston Baecht said she did not think there would be any side effects from the medication that would make him incompetent to stand trial or communicate with his attorneys, Dear said loudly, “Bull—-t."
“This is my brain at stake. They want to turn me into a zombie,” he said, prompting Judge Robert E. Blackburn to issue another warning to be quiet or risk being removed from the hearing.
Previously in court, Dear has declared himself a “warrior of the babies” and said he was guilty. He made other similar statements during Tuesday’s hearing, such as “I’m glad I did what I did. Total success.” At the end of the day as he was being led out of the courtroom by U.S. Marshals, he shouted at the judge “I had a right to take the stand, you bastard. Go to hell."
The hearing was set to continue Wednesday, when Dear's lawyers are expected to present their case. In questioning Sarrazin, federal public defender Natalie Stricklin stressed that the anti-psychotic medication proposed for Dear could cause side effects that would aggravate Dear's existing health problems including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which Dear has refused medication for.
Sarrazin said Dear could also be forced to take drugs to treat those health problems as part of his forcible medication for his delusions and blood could also be drawn from Dear against his will for laboratory tests to monitor his overall health. However, he acknowledged that it would be difficult to force him to submit to an electrocardigram to check the condition of of his heart since it would require him to be still.
Dear’s prosecution in state court and then federal court for the attack on the clinic in Colorado Springs has been stalled because he has been repeatedly found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. Federal prosecutors are asking Blackburn to order that Dear be given medication against his will.
According to medical records cited by prosecutors, Dear said he had a heart attack after being forcibly medicated while at the state hospital in Colorado but Sarrazin said there was nothing to back that up in the records.
Dear was forcibly given medication over the course of about several days during a stay at Colorado's state mental hospital, not long enough to determine if it was effective, Preston Baecht said.
Preston Baecht said she was recommending medication for Dear based on her experience as a psychologist and studies that have done been on prisoners given medication for delusional disorder.
While being questioned by defense attorney Jennifer Beck, Preston Baecht acknowledged that delusional disorder is relatively rare and not much research has been done on its treatment as a result.
According to state court documents, Dear told police he attacked the clinic because he was upset with Planned Parenthood for “the selling of baby parts."
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.