Stating there is “clear and convincing evidence” that alleged Capitol Police shooter Russell Weston Jr.’s mental status has improved in recent months, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled Thursday to extend the court order requiring Weston’s forced medication.
In his eight-page ruling, Sullivan acknowledged that Weston currently “lacks the requisite capacity to proceed to trial,” but cited the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist who stated there is a “substantial probability” Weston will be competent to stand trial in the “foreseeable future.”
Weston, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, is charged in the July 24, 1998, shootings that killed Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson.
Now housed in the Federal Correction Institute in Butner, N.C., Weston has been forcibly medicated for the past 30 months in an attempt to make him fit to stand trial.
Sullivan’s ruling marks the fourth extension of the court order since Weston began taking anti-psychotic medication in January 2002. The current order will expire Nov. 19.
Federal prosecutors sought the extension in May, prompted by behavioral changes observed earlier this year by Butner staff.
Weston’s attorney, federal public defender A.J. Kramer, had sought to deny the motion and end the court-ordered medication at a hearing earlier this month, citing concerns over Weston’s health and continued weight gain. Kramer has suggested that, alternately, Weston could be committed to 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.
Referencing testimony from forensic psychiatrist Sally Johnson, who monitors Weston at the North Carolina facility, Sullivan noted that although Weston has gained nearly 70 pounds since beginning medication, he has not developed related health conditions.
“While this Court is troubled by the defendant’s weight gain on the anti-psychotic medications, the Court credits Dr. Johnson’s testimony and finds that their continued use remains medically appropriate,” Sullivan wrote.
Sullivan also addressed concerns raised by Kramer over the length of time Weston has been forcibly medicated.
In weighing the extension, Sullivan wrote, he considered the nature of the offense, the likely penalty or punishment, as well as the length of confinement.
“This Court finds that a six month continuation of medication, resulting in an involuntary medication period of two years and eleven months, in the face of the gravest of offenses — double homicide of law enforcement officers in the government’s place of business — is not unreasonable.”
The case is scheduled to return to court in November.