Admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. has again been ruled incompetent by a judge, keeping his prosecution on hold.
The result of his latest evaluation by state psychiatrists - that Dear, 59, remains too mentally disturbed to understand the charges against him - was announced Tuesday during a brief hearing before 4th Judicial District Chief Judge William Bain.
Bain ordered that Dear remain in treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute Pueblo, extending a legal limbo that began in May 2016, when a different judge ruled that Dear is unable to separate delusions from reality. The defendant wasn't present in court because his defense waived his right to be there and judge didn't require him to attend.
The familiar ruling comes despite signs of a potential change in Dear's treatment. Last month, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed a Pueblo District judge's order allowing the state hospital to force medication on Dear against his objections.
In the weeks since, the Public Defender's Office has asked the state Supreme Court to reconsider the issue, but the high court hasn't said whether it will, District Attorney Dan May said in court. Based on what the Supreme Court decides, the high court could either extend the appeals process for months or provide an a green light to medicate Dear.
Experts say that Dear's treatment team is unlikely to begin administering medications until all appeals have been exhausted.
Forensic psychologists have cautioned against expecting an immediate turnaround in Dear's mental condition once that happens, however.
"It'll be a long road - it's not going to be quick," Max Wachtel, an Aurora-based forensic psychologist who has conducted up to 700 competency evaluations, told The Gazette last month. But achieving progress with medication is a "highly realistic" goal, he added.
Dear has repeatedly railed in court against forced medication - saying he didn't want a "chemical lobotomy."
Dear, who is diagnosed with delusional disorder, is charged with 179 counts in a Nov. 27, 2015, shooting rampage at Colorado Springs' lone Planned Parenthood clinic. He confessed to police during his surrender at the end of a five-hour standoff and has affirmed his guilt at court hearings and during repeated interviews with media outlets including The Gazette, claiming himself a "warrior" for unborn children.
Under state law, Dear must be evaluated every 90 days by state psychiatric evaluators. He has been ruled incompetent each time.
Dear's next competency hearing is scheduled for May 21.