Alleged Planned Parenthood shooter can be forced to take anti-psychotic medication, court rules

The case has been in limbo for eight years after Robert Dear was found incompetent to stand trial in 2016.
robert dear
Posted at 9:51 PM, Jun 10, 2024

DENVER — The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a man charged in the killings of three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in 2015 can be forced to take anti-psychotic medicine in order to become competent to stand trial.

Robert Dear, 66, had previously been diagnosed with delusional disorder. The case has been in limbo for eight years after Dear was found incompetent to stand trial in 2016.

Robert Dear

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To determine whether a person is competent to stand trial, a court weighs whether the person “has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding—and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.” The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the right for a defendant to have a competency evaluation before going to trial in the landmark case Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402.

In September 2022, a U.S. district judge determined that Dear could be forcibly medicated in an attempt to restore him to competency, but his defense filed an appeal to prevent that from happening. According to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a finding that anti-psychotic medication was substantially likely to restore him to competency was "not clearly erroneous."

Dear is accused of fatally shooting Officer Garrett Swasey, Jennifer Markovsky, and Ke'Arre Stewart. Eight others were also injured in the November 2015 shooting.

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Even though Dear can be forced to take anti-psychotic medication, the trial isn't moving forward just yet.

"It's a wait and see," said Ryan Brackley, a defense attorney who has been following the case.

The effort to make Dear competent to stand trial has to be successful for the trial to move forward.

"While it's moving forward towards a step in the direction of restoring competency through medication, we don't know whether it's going to work," said Brackley.

Dear faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life behind bars if convicted. The U.S. Department of Justice ruled in December 2020 that Dear would not face the death penalty.

Timeline of Robert Lewis Dear Jr. case
Dear is accused of killing three people and injuring several more after opening fire at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs in 2015. 

Nov. 27, 2015 - Dear, then-57 years old, went to a Planned Parenthood clinic at ADDRESS in Colorado Springs because the clinic offered abortion services and he wanted to wage “war,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

He brought four rifles, five handguns, two additional rifles, a shotgun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, plus propane tanks. He shot multiple people and killed three, including a police officer during a five-hour standoff. The victims were later identified as Ke'Arre M. Stewart, Jennifer Markovsky and University of Colorado Colorado Springs Police Officer Garrett Swasey. By the time Dear was arrested, he had fired nearly 200 bullets.

Dec. 9, 2015 - Dear was charged with 179 felony counts, including first-degree murder. During the hearing, he had several outbursts in which he said, “I’m guilty. There’s no trial” and “I’m a warrior for the babies.”

May 2016 - Following court-ordered mental competency evaluations, Dear was found not competent to proceed. He was diagnosed with a delusional disorder. A judge ordered him to be confined at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, where he has remained ever since. He was periodically re-examined in the years after this.

Dec. 9, 2019 - Federal charges were filed against Dear. A federal grand jury issued a 68-count indictment against him, which included 65 counts violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and three counts of use of a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in death where the killing is a murder.

December 2020 - The U.S. Department of Justice ruled that Dear would not face the death penalty.

August 2022 - During a three-day hearing in district court, both parties presented expert testimony. Experts in psychiatry who had worked with Dear were called by the prosecution and testified that they believed there was a 70% chance that antipsychotics would restore him to competency. Experts called by the defense testified that antipsychotics were unlikely to render him competent.

September 2022 - Based on the August 2022 hearing, a judge ruled that Dear could be involuntarily medicated after he repeatedly refused to take antipsychotics.

Sept. 28, 2022 - Dear appealed the ruling and attorneys waited for a decision from the federal level.

June 10, 2024 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled on June 10, 2024 that Dear could be involuntarily medicated.

“On the government’s motion, the district court ordered Dear involuntarily medicated in an attempt to restore his competency,” the court’s decision reads. “We affirm that order, holding that the district court made sufficiently detailed factual findings and that those findings — which placed greater weight on the government’s experts because of their extensive experience restoring competency and their personal experience observing and interacting with Dear — are not clearly erroneous.”

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