Robert Lewis Dear Jr., who admitted carrying out a 2015 shooting that killed three people and wounded nine at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, remains mentally unfit for prosecution, a judge ruled Friday in extending his indefinite legal limbo.
Dear, who has been diagnosed with a longstanding delusional disorder, wasn’t at the brief update on his mental condition. His case will return to court April 26.
The ruling came as El Paso County District Attorney Dan May disclosed in court that a two-year effort to force medications on Dear has begun anew.
A Pueblo district judge initially approved forced medication in early 2017, but Dear’s attorneys appealed. The Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the District Court, and in June the Colorado Supreme Court declined to review the case.
At some point, however, the order expired, May said, leaving the Pueblo County Attorney’s Office to request a new order on behalf of the Colorado State Mental Health Institute at Pueblo, where Dear is being detained.
A hearing regarding forced medication is scheduled for Feb. 5 in Pueblo District Court, May said. The issue is part of a separate civil case, and prosecutors aren’t directly involved.
Even if medication is given, it could be months or years before it takes effect, and recovery isn’t certain, mental health experts have told The Gazette.
At issue is Dear’s mental competency, or his ability to understand the charges against him and participate in his defense. He initially was declared legally incompetent in May 2016, and judges have upheld that finding every 90 days since.
Because he faces multiple counts of first-degree murder, with a potential sentence of life in prison without parole, Dear can be held indefinitely for the rest of his life. His prosecution would resume only if he is deemed competent.