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Judge declares accused Colo. clinic shooter mentally unfit for trial

For the third time, a Colorado judge on Thursday ruled that Robert Dear, the man accused of a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic last year, remains incompetent to stand trial, Rewire reports (Mason Pieklo, Rewire, 11/17).

Colorado law requires a state mental hospital to update the judge every 90 days regarding the mental state of a defendant who is found incompetent (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/15). According to Reuters, Dear will now return to a state mental health facility and face another mental competency hearing in February (Coffman, Reuters, 11/17).

Background

Dear allegedly opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in late November 2015. Since surrendering, Dear has been held without bond.

One police officer and two civilians were killed during the assault. An additional five police officers and four civilians were injured.

Dear has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and first-degree assault.

Details on lawsuit

In late December 2015, Judge Gilbert Martinez ordered a mental competency examination after Dear said he wanted to represent himself and that he did not trust his public defender. The purpose of the evaluation was to determine whether Dear understands the case and is mentally able to waive his right to an attorney and represent himself.

In April, Martinez heard testimony from two forensic psychologists, both of whom said Dear suffered from delusions and should be considered incompetent. The psychologists testified that inability to rationally comprehend the lawsuit and his distrust of his attorneys is cause to deem him mentally incompetent to stand trial.

According to detectives who interviewed Dear following the shooting, Dear did not want to accept a mental illness defense because he thought it would undermine his intended message, which he said was to protest abortion rights.

In May, Martinez found Dear was not mentally competent to stand trial. Martinez in the May order cited an assessment that determined Dear was "currently incompetent to proceed" because he has "a mental disability or developmental disability" that limits his ability to understand the trial rationally and consult with his lawyers. Martinez said although Dear could comprehend the facts of the case, his delusions and paranoia prevent him from meaningfully assisting in his defense (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/15).

Latest developments

On Thursday, in addition to ruling that Dear was still "not competent to proceed," Martinez denied a request from Dear's defense team to bar Dear from speaking with the media.

According to Reuters, attorneys representing Dear had taken "the unusual step" of requesting a gag order for Dear, contending that permitting Dear to speak with news outlets could undermine his right to a fair trial should he ever be deemed mentally competent for trial (Reuters, 11/17).