Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Dear suffers bizarre delusions, psychologist says
The man who admitted to carrying out a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs seven years ago suffers from significant bizarre delusions that make it impossible for him to assist in his own legal defense, a psychologist testified Tuesday during a hearing in U.S. District Court.
Psychologist Lea Ann Preston Baecht testified that Robert Dear, 64, believes he is being persecuted by the FBI, that former President Barack Obama is the anti-Christ and sent agents to kill Dear, that staff at the hospital where he is being held are witches and warlocks, and that masons carried out the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.
She offered testimony Tuesday during a hearing to determine whether Dear should be involuntarily medicated in an attempt to restore him to mental competency so the criminal case against him can go forward in court.
Baecht said Dear’s delusions impact his ability to participate in his own defense, and Dear is likely to remain mentally incompetent to proceed unless he is medicated, which he has so far refused. He has been diagnosed with delusional disorder and, in the past, schizophrenia, two closely related conditions, she testified.
Dear objected to her assessment of his ability to work with his defense attorneys.
“There is no defense,” he shouted in court. “I did it.”
Dear, 64, has repeatedly admitted to killing three people and wounding nine others during a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs in 2015, but the criminal proceedings against him have stalled for years as he has been continually found mentally unable to stand trial in Colorado’s state courts.
Federal prosecutors brought 68 criminal counts against Dear in late 2019 in connection with the Planned Parenthood attack in an attempt to move forward with criminal proceedings, but in September 2021, Dear was also found mentally incompetent by the federal courts, stalling those proceedings as well.
Dear’s defense attorneys argued Tuesday’s hearing should be closed to the public to protect Dear’s medical privacy, but Senior Judge Robert Blackburn dismissed that argument, finding the First Amendment right to public court access outweighed Dear’s privacy interests.
Dear has consistently claimed he is not mentally ill in outbursts during court proceedings over the years, including on Tuesday, when he said he’d been declared incompetent as part of a scheme to keep him from firing his attorneys and representing himself. He also objected to involuntary medication several times.
“It is chemical lobotomy,” he said. “That is what they are doing. Chemical lobotomy.”
In other outbursts, Dear applauded the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to end constitutional protections for abortions and said he was “glad I did what I did” and that the attack was a “success.”
“Planned Parenthood? You lost at the Supreme Court,” he said.
A competency evaluation considers whether a criminal defendant is mentally ill or developmentally disabled, and whether that mental illness impedes the defendant’s ability to understand the court process. It centers on two prongs — whether defendants have a factual and rational understanding of the proceedings, and whether defendants are able to consult with their attorneys and assist in their own defenses.
Competency refers only to a defendant’s current mental capacity and is distinct from an insanity defense, which focuses on the defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime.
Baecht testified that her evaluation found Dear had a solid understanding of the facts and circumstances of his case, but was nevertheless incompetent because he could not assist in his own defense. She estimated his psychosis may have gone untreated for between 15 and 30 years.
The hearing is scheduled to last through Wednesday.
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