U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is expected to rule as early as today on a motion filed by federal prosecutors seeking to continue the forced medication of alleged Capitol Police shooter Russell Weston Jr.
The prosecution argued last week for a six-month extension of the court order requiring Weston’s forced medication, the fourth such request since he began taking anti-psychotic medication in January 2002.
Weston’s attorney, federal public defender A.J. Kramer, sought to deny the motion and end the court-ordered medication.
The defendant, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic charged in the July 24, 1998, shootings that killed Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, has been forcibly medicated for the past 30 months in an attempt to make him fit to stand trial.
Although the current court order requiring Weston’s medication had been set to expire May 19, it has been temporarily extended during the motions process. If approved, the six-month extension would expire in November.
During Thursday’s hearing, Sullivan expressed unease that the court would be acting as a “rubber stamp” if he approves the extension, and he raised questions over whether prosecutors would seek additional court orders if Weston is not found competent by November.
“I have to be concerned about future orders for medication,” Sullivan said. The judge said he would require several days to consider the motion before issuing a ruling.
Federal prosecutors filed their newest motion in early May, arguing that Weston has made significant gains in his behavior and citing changes observed earlier this year by staff at the Federal Correction Institute in Butner, N.C., where Weston is housed.
“The government has shown significant progress over the course of the defendant’s medical regimen,” said U.S. Attorney David Goodhand.
Federal prosecutors cited Weston’s recent participation in two separate mock-trial exercises, in mid-April and June, in which he played the roles of defense and prosecuting attorney, respectively.
The mock trials are held as part of a group therapy class designed to teach patients about the legal process.
Kramer argued, however, that despite his client’s recent behavior, Weston’s delusional beliefs have not diminished over time.
“The delusions are exactly the same as they’ve always been,” Kramer said. According to court documents, Weston continues to maintain numerous delusions, including assertions that he is a graduate of Harvard University, holding advanced degrees from its law school.
Kramer stated that Weston also continues to believe he is a law enforcement official and that Sullivan, the prosecuting attorneys and the entire Butner staff are escaped federal prisoners.
When asked to discuss his defense during a recent meeting, Kramer said Weston responded by stating that “a group of escaped prisoners cannot convict him of anything” and that “ultimately he will prevail.”
And according to Kramer, the delusions have expanded. He asserted that his client has developed new delusions incorporating current events — such as high gasoline prices — into his existing beliefs.
In order to be found competent to stand trial, a defendant must understand the proceedings and be able to adequately assist in his own defense. (Weston failed to meet those requirements in an April 1999 hearing.)
Kramer asserted that Weston’s responses show he does not understand the proceedings, and that his ability to assist in his own defense “has been and continues to be a hopeless cause.”
If Sullivan rules against extending Weston’s medication, it is likely the defendant would face civil commitment, resulting in long-term placement in an institution for the mentally ill.
In such a situation, Weston, who has been indicted but never tried, would not be found to bear criminal responsibility for his alleged actions.