Robert Dear, the accused gunman in the Nov. 27 Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, is headed to the state mental hospital in Pueblo for an evaluation that will determine whether he is mentally competent to represent himself in court.
Dear told El Paso County District Court Judge Gilbert Martinez that he wants to fire his defense attorneys and represent himself.
Martinez advised Dear, who appeared in a blue El Paso County Jail jumpsuit, heavily shackled, that he should listen to his attorneys. At the request of the defense, which includes Daniel King and Kristen Nelson, who defended Aurora theater killer James Holmes, Martinez cleared the courtroom to talk privately with Dear and his defense team.
After 15 minutes, the hearing resumed.
Throughout the afternoon, Dear interrupted defense and prosecution attorneys to make his arguments for representing himself and to argue against a hearing on his sanity.
Dear said he would not cooperate with a competency evaluation and claimed if sent to Pueblo he would be drugged like a “zombie” and “like they did to Batman,” a reference to Holmes. Dear has previously claimed that Holmes was drugged during his trial.
Dear then said the next time he appears in court he will appear drugged. “When you see me here next, just remember that!” he shouted.
Prosecutors argued Dear has already demonstrated his sanity by understanding the charges brought against him in previous hearings.
It could be months before Dear’s sanity is evaluated. Prosecutors said the current backlog at the state hospital is between six and nine months. If Dear were evaluated at the El Paso County Jail, the timeline could be considerably shorter, perhaps as little as a month. But Martinez decided Dear should go to Pueblo, given the severity of the 179 charges against him, including first-degree murder.
Wednesday’s hearing was packed with media observers as well as victims from the shooting.
District Attorney Dan May raised doubts about whether Martinez should oversee the case. May pointed out that Martinez and his wife were recent victims of a crime, and that the victim’s advocate for the Dear case is also their advocate. He also asked why Martinez got the case, given that it wasn’t his “turn” in the rotation.
Martinez responded that the case was assigned by the chief judge, given its high profile nature. That also earned May an accusation from King that he was “judge-shopping.”
Dear’s next court appearance is scheduled for February 24.