Looking gaunt and staring with a fixed, wide-eyed gaze, admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear Jr. was again deemed mentally incompetent Thursday, extending his legal limbo into its second year.
With no trial date in sight, Dear, 59, sounded off repeatedly during a brief status update in 4th Judicial District Court. He complained about “forced drugs,” goaded El Paso County District Attorney Dan May and the presiding judge, and wished a “happy late Mother’s Day” to women who haven’t had abortions.
“I’m for women’s rights – unborn women’s rights!” Dear called out as he was led shackled into court. He wore a lime-green jail uniform, indicating that he is being held in a special mental health ward.
The restive defendant has been held at the Colorado State Mental Health Institute at Pueblo since last May, when presiding judge Gilbert Martinez first determined he was incompetent to proceed, citing Dear’s long history of delusional beliefs.
In legal terms, the finding means that Dear is unable to understand the charges against him or to assist in his defense, making him ineligible to be prosecuted until his mental condition improves. Thursday was the fourth time that decision has been up for review.
Dear is expected to return Aug. 24 for another competency review – this time appearing before a new judge, yet to be named.
Martinez, a nearly three-decade veteran of the local bench, is on course to retire at the end of July. The Dear case will be handled by his successor.
In discussing the transition, Martinez used a male pronoun to refer to the new chief judge, drawing a heckle from the defense table.
“He or she – don’t be prejudiced!” Dear called out in a booming voice.
The comment drew a response from Martinez, who announced that all four candidates for the chief judge position in El Paso County are men.
“Aw, what a shame!” went Dear’s reply. “I was hoping for a pro-abortion judge!”
At one point, Dear looked at District Attorney May and said, “I sent you a letter, did you get it?” May didn’t respond.
Dear also invited attorneys to seek him out at the state psychiatric facility, claiming he was the victim of “forced drugs” and a “chemical lobotomy” and promising that he had a good case. Details of Dear’s treatment are privileged, making it difficult to assess his claims.
Defendants judged to be incompetent who are charged with first-degree murder can be held in custody up to the rest of their lives.
Restoring Dear to competency could take weeks, months or years, mental health experts have told The Gazette, saying much depends on whether he and his legal team agree to let him be medicated by the state hospital.
Dear is charged with 179 counts in a Nov. 27, 2015, shooting that killed three people and wounded nine at the lone Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. He confessed to police during his surrender at the end of a five-hour standoff and has reaffirmed his guilt at court hearings and during repeated interviews with media outlets including The Gazette.
Legal Affairs reporter
Colorado Springs Gazette