Admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr.’s legal limbo is poised to enter its fourth year Friday, when a judge weighs in on whether Dear remains too disturbed to face a trial in a deadly armed rampage.
A hearing set for 9 a.m. before 4th Judicial District Chief Judge William Bain will be Dear’s 12th competency review since he was found mentally unfit for prosecution in May 2016.
Dear, who turned 61 this month, hasn’t attended court in El Paso County since August 2017 and isn’t expected to be present. His attorneys have repeatedly waived his presence, seeking to avoid disruptions, and he remains confined for treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, where providers must give a progress update every 90 days.
The hearing could offer insight into efforts to force medication on Dear, which some experts say could ease his longstanding delusional disorder even as they caution that could take months or years to achieve.
The battle to compel Dear to receive medication has largely been waged in private, argued in sealed court filings and overseen by a Pueblo judge.
In 2017, a Pueblo court granted the state hospital permission to force medication on Dear, but that order expired amid an appeal by the defense. It’s unclear if a new one has been issued, because mental health records are confidential under privacy rules.
The yearslong holding pattern raises questions when, or if, Dear’s victims and their survivors will see him tried in a courtroom. Under state law, he can be held indefinitely on suspicion of first-degree murder while undergoing treatment.
Dear faces 179 counts in the Nov. 27, 2015, shooting rampage at Colorado Springs’ lone Planned Parenthood clinic. Three people were killed, including a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer, and nine were wounded.
He has repeatedly claimed responsibility, citing antiabortion zeal. He has also detailed fears that FBI agents have followed him for decades as part of a nationwide conspiracy — an apparent delusion that led to the killings and armed standoff at the Colorado Springs clinic.