Planned Parenthood Shooting Suspect Tells Judge He’s Competent

DENVER (CN) – Despite four years of quarterly assessments deeming him incompetent to stand trial, the Colorado man accused of killing three people in a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 told a federal judge Friday he is mentally sound.

Robert Lewis Dear talks to Judge Gilbert Martinez during a court appearance in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2015. With Dear appearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Denver on new charges related to the 2015 Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, prosecutors are asking a judge to order a new mental evaluation for Dear. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post via AP, Pool, File)

“They threw me in the nuthouse, but I’m competent,” Robert Dear told U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen Mix on the fourth floor of the Alfred A. Arraj United States Courthouse in downtown Denver. “I have six witnesses and seven hours of tape from the night I was arrested, but they sealed it because they don’t want the truth out there.”

A federal grand jury indicted Dear, 61, on Dec. 5 adding 68 federal charges on top of 179 charges from Colorado’s Fourth Judicial District, including eight charges of first-degree murder for attacking a fertility clinic in Colorado Springs.

According to the 13-page federal indictment, Dear entered the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood on Nov. 27, 2015, armed with “four SKS rifles, five handguns, two additional rifles, a shotgun, more than 500 rounds of ammunition, and propane tanks.”

“Intending to wage a war” against the fertility clinic which provides abortions, Dear fired 198 bullets at patients and staff both in the parking lot and inside the facility, according to prosecutors. Three people were killed, including a police officer.

Since his arrest, Dear has been held at the State Mental Hospital in Pueblo and evaluated quarterly to determine whether he is mentally fit to stand trial, most recently in October. Dear was nevertheless indicted because the statute of limitations will expire five years after the incident.

Although Dear insists on representing himself, federal public defenders Natalie Stricklin and Warren Williamson accompanied him in court and requested additional hearings to review whether the state charges will interfere with federal proceedings.

Prosecutors disagreed.

“Justice has been delayed. It has been delayed four years, and there is no need for unreasonable delays,” said U.S. attorney Pegeen Rhyne. Rhyne said she wants the Bureau of Prisons to issue a competency exam to Dear as soon as possible and hopes he cooperates.

“I hope he would take this opportunity to prove the competency he says he has,” Rhyne said.

Dear interrupted proceedings to ask whether the exam would be recorded.

“I begged them at the nuthouse for four years to have them videotape the exams, but they said it would violate my rights,” Dear said.

A patient and earnest Mix responded, “So it was their word against yours?”

Dear replied, “Yes.”

Mix agreed to first schedule a briefing hearing as requested by the defense before proceeding with a competency exam by the Bureau of Prisons which may take several months. It is unclear when, or if, Dear will face a jury.

If convicted, Dear faces a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum penalty of death, although federal prosecutors have yet to confirm if they will seek the death penalty.

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