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Forced medication for 2015 Planned Parenthood shooter gets appellate approval

Criminal proceedings have stalled in the near-decade since Robert Dear was found mentally incompetent to stand trial.

DENVER (CN) — The 10th Circuit on Monday affirmed a lower court’s order to forcibly medicate 66-year-old Robert Dear, a man charged with killing three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in 2015.

"The district court provided sufficiently particularized findings and did not clearly err in placing greater weight on the government’s expert testimony to conclude that involuntary medication is substantially likely to restore Dear to competency,” U.S. Circuit Judge Nancy Mortiz wrote in a 16-page opinion. “Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s order granting the government’s motion to involuntarily medicate Dear in an effort to restore his competency."

Moritz was appointed by Barack Obama.

Dear drove to the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on Nov. 27, 2015, armed with “four SKS rifles, five handguns, two additional rifles, a shotgun, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, and propane tanks,” prosecutors wrote in a federal indictment.

“Intending to wage a war” against the fertility clinic, which provides abortions, Dear fired 198 bullets at patients and staff both in the parking lot and inside the facility, according to prosecutors. Three people were killed, including a police officer, and several others were injured.

State psychiatrists diagnosed Dear with persecutory type delusional disorder shortly after his arrest when he said he believed President Obama was Satan and that his own food and water were being poisoned.

Dear also told doctors he thought the FBI had been tracking him for 20 years, breaking into his home to cut holes in his clothes and sending women to lure him into compromising situations.

After the federal government indicted Dear in 2019, he was transferred to the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, where another psychiatrist found him incompetent but “substantially likely to be restored to competency through the administration of antipsychotics,” Moritz wrote.

When Dear refused to take his medication, the government requested he be forced to do so.

Following an August 2022 hearing, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn found Dear could be forcibly medicated. Blackburn was appointed by George W. Bush.

Although Blackburn’s treatment plan remains under seal, court documents indicate the judge included precautions to alleviate the risk to Dear’s heart, including having medical staff monitor him with an electrocardiogram to detect adverse effects of the medication.

Dear appealed, claiming Blackburn failed to particularize his findings with regard to Dear’s age and advanced state of untreated mental illness.

The 10th Circuit panel also included Obama-appointed U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Bacharach and Bill Clinton-appointed Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Beck Briscoe. The judges agreed with Dear's attorneys that Blackburn’s opinion could have been written more clearly — but also agreed with the government that it hit all the necessary notes.

"To be sure, the district court could have addressed this and other topics in more detail,” Moritz wrote. “Even the government acknowledges that the district court’s discussion of the scientific literature ‘was somewhat opaque.’”

Blackburn nevertheless made "sufficiently detailed factual findings," Moritz wrote, and "those findings — which placed greater weight on the government’s experts because of their extensive experience restoring competency and their personal experience observing and interacting with Dear — are not clearly erroneous.”

Although Dear tried to represent himself pro se, federal public defenders have taken the lead on his case and did not respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

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Categories / Appeals, Criminal, Health

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