Planned Parenthood shooting suspect in Colorado loses appeal over forced medication

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A man charged with killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2015 can be forced to take anti-psychotic medication in the hope of making him competent to stand trial, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a trial judge's finding that involuntarily medicating Robert Dear, 66, who has been diagnosed with delusional disorder, was substantially likely to restore him to competency was "not clearly erroneous."

Government experts estimated that anti-psychotics had a more than 70% chance of restoring Dear to competency. Defense experts said anti-psychotics were unlikely to work, citing Dear's age and long duration of untreated psychosis.

Writing for the Denver-based appeals court, Circuit Judge Nancy Moritz said the trial judge was entitled to give more weight to the government experts, citing their extensive experience restoring competency and observations while interacting with Dear.

Once a self-employed art dealer, Dear has pleaded not guilty to a 68-count indictment over the Nov. 27, 2015 attack.

Federal prosecutors said Dear, "intending to wage war" at the clinic because it offered abortion services, traveled there with six rifles, five handguns, a shotgun, propane tanks and more than 500 rounds of ammunition, and fired 198 bullets.

Two civilians and a police officer were killed in the attack, which ended after a five-hour standoff.

Dear has ranted in court hearings about abortion, once calling himself "a warrior for the babies," and told doctors the FBI had tracked him for 20 years and would break into his home and cut holes in his clothes.

Jacob Rasch-Chabot, a federal public defender representing Dear, said his office does not comment on its cases.

The office of Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch in Denver did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Dear has been treated since his arrest at facilities including the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.

He could face life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors decided in December 2020 not to seek the death penalty.

The case will return to U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn in Denver, who in Sept. 2022 allowed the forced medication.

The case is U.S. v. Dear, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-1303.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)