COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The case against the man who acknowledges killing three people in an attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic moves into a new phase while he awaits a mental competency evaluation, ordered after he defiantly told a judge he wanted to fire his public defender and represent himself.
It could be months before Robert Lewis Dear, 57, is seen by a doctor at the state mental hospital who will determine whether he is capable of making that decision. And Dear promised to be uncooperative, saying he would refuse to answer an evaluator’s questions, even if it meant that a doctor would declare him incompetent and “administer the drug treatment and make me a zombie.”
“Do I sound like a zombie? Do I sound like I have no intelligence?” he asked the judge.
Judge Gilbert A. Martinez told Dear it was his right not to respond, but doctors could use other evidence in their decision-making.
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Dear, looking unkempt and wearing blue jail scrubs, repeatedly interrupted Wednesday’s hearing, held to discuss a range of issues related to the Nov. 27 shooting at the Colorado Springs clinic.
Martinez at one point warned Dear that what he said could be used against him, and advised him to trust his lawyers.
“How can I trust my attorney when he says I’m incompetent in the newspaper?” Dear replied.
Before Dear could continue, Martinez cleared the courtroom of spectators to privately discuss the possibility of him defending himself.
When the courtroom re-opened, Deputy District Attorney Donna Billek objected to the competency evaluation, saying Dear had made it clear through his repeated pronouncements that he understood the proceedings and the charges against him.
Martinez ordered the exam to take place at a state mental hospital, where a backlog of orders for such evaluations made it unclear when the exam could be completed.
Attorneys who are not involved in Dear’s case say it isn’t unheard of for defendants to refuse to participate in a competency evaluation, but they can be forced to attend even if they don’t answer questions.
Hanging over the hearing was the specter of Colorado’s last mass shooting trial, of Aurora theater gunman James Holmes, who was represented by the same lawyers from the public defender’s office who now represent Dear.
Dear has repeatedly referenced the Holmes case, in which defense attorneys successfully argued that the gunman didn’t deserve death because he was mentally ill. At one point, Dear even briefly slumped in his chair in an apparent mockery of how the medicated Holmes had sat silently during the theater shooting trial.
Prosecutors have yet to decide whether to seek the death penalty against Dear. Much of his legal team — from lead attorney Daniel King to his paralegals — also represented Holmes.
Dear faces 179 counts, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and other charges. At a court appearance earlier this month, he declared himself guilty, said he is “a warrior for the babies” and objected to the sealing evidence in his case.
On Wednesday, he claimed he was being poisoned in jail and urged the judge to have a sample of his hair tested to “see if there’s any drugs that have been put into my system while I’ve been in jail.”
Dear’s family and acquaintances describe him as a man with a violent temper, anti-government sentiments and longstanding disgust involving people who provide abortion services. He spent most of his life in North and South Carolina before recently moving to an isolated community in Colorado’s mountains, where he lived in a trailer with no electricity.
Authorities have revealed little about the preparations behind the attack, where Dear held police at bay for more than five hours, injuring nine others and forcing the evacuation of 300 people from businesses surrounding the clinic.
Dear’s next court appearance is Feb. 24.