A plea of not guilty because of insanity is different from incompetence to stand trial.

Insanity defense refers to the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged crime; insanity essentially means the defendant cannot separate right from wrong, and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions during such an episode.

On the other hand, incompetency only concerns their condition during the trial.

The defendant might be sane before the trial, but poor mental health prevents the individual from comprehending anything about the legal proceeding.

The court has no burden to prove otherwise but must allow the defendant to prove the claim.

The 63-year-old Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the man who admitted to killing three people and injuring nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, is now facing federal charges after the state’s case against him has been in an indefinite stall due to the lingering question and repeatedly approved claim of incompetency to stand trial.

Dear was arrested shortly after the rampage, but he has not since been tried for the crimes.

Colorado Springs Police Department

10 /10 Waging War

The indictment record shows that Robert Dear traveled to the Planned Parenthood clinic on November 27, 2015, to do nothing but wage war against abortion.

He targeted the clinic because the facility offered abortion services. Dear carried with him five handguns, a shotgun, four SKS rifles, and two additional rifles along with more than 500 rounds of ammunition and a propane tank.

He began shooting at people parked next to his truck and others in various locations in front of the clinic, killing two people and injuring three. But his rampage was far from being done.

9 /10 A Five-Hour Standoff

Dear was arrested nearly six hours after someone called 911, saying a shooter inside the clinic at 11:30 a.m.

Before being taken into custody, he forced his way into the facility and engaged in a five-hour standoff with officers from several public safety agencies and law enforcement, including the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs Campus Police, and the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Dear shot at the officers, killing one and injuring four others.

Ken Wolter / Shutterstock.com

8 /10 Propane Tank Failed Explosion

At the time of the attack, there were 27 people inside the clinic, including healthcare providers, employees, patients, and visitors/companions; all hid in various rooms as the standoff was taking place until they were rescued.

One of them was killed as a bullet from Dear’s weapon went through a wall and hit the victim. He fired approximately 198 bullets during the shootout.

Before entering the clinic, he placed a propane tank in the parking lot in the hope of creating an explosion by shooting at it. The explosion didn’t happen.


7 /10 Too Delusional To Understand

By the time Dear was arrested, he had already killed three people: a police officer Garrett Swasey (44), an army veteran Ke’Arre Stewart (29), and Jennifer Markovsky (35).

None of them worked at the clinic. Dear also injured nine others. He was subsequently charged in state court with first-degree murder.

While appearing in the 4th Judicial District in December, when he was being read the 179 charges against him, he proclaimed himself “warrior for the babies,” among other outrageous claims.

Since then, the case has gone nowhere since the judge ruled the defendant was too delusional to understand the charges.


6 /10 90-Day Interval Review

Judge Gilbert Anthony Martinez ruled in May 2016 that Robert Dear was incompetent to stand trial, citing delusional disorder of persecutory type as determined by experts.

His competency to stand trial has been reviewed regularly at 90-day intervals since the ruling.

He is confined at the Colorado Mental Health Institute to receive treatments and further evaluations. In every instance, the result has always been the same.

The delay in legal proceedings prompted U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn (retired since February 2021) to pursue a federal case as soon as possible due to the five-year statute of limitation on the federal charges.

5 /10 Current Condition

On December 9, 2019, Dear was officially charged with federal law violations, including (among 68 of them) three counts of use of a firearm during a crime resulting in death.

Similar to the state’s case. However, he had to be determined competent for trial before any of the legal proceedings can continue.

Federal prosecutors argued that the previous state-mandated mental health evaluation should not apply to the federal case.

It was an outdated examination, meaning the result could not reflect the defendant’s current condition.

According to the court filing, prosecutors claimed the state’s mental health evaluation of Robert Dear was flawed.

4 /10 Maximum Penalty

If found competent and guilty of federal crimes, Dear faces a maximum sentence of the death penalty. The decision to seek the death penalty was not brought up at the time of the indictment.

Any legal issues about that potential decision must be made only after federal prosecutors go through a strict protocol, including consultation with the defendant’s counsel and victims’ families.

If the death penalty is out of the question, life imprisonment is the harshest form of punishment allowed.

His attorneys argued that another mental health evaluation for the federal case trial was unwarranted.


3 /10 Political Kangaroo Court

During the December 9 indictment, Dear told Magistrate Judge Nina Wang that the issue of mental competence was only raised in his case because it was all part of a political kangaroo court.

He further claimed that authorities did not want him to stand trial. Dear has repeatedly claimed to be competent for trial and asked to represent himself.

He made similar statements in the state case. Robert Dear doesn’t seem like a worried defendant for someone facing the death penalty or at least life imprisonment. He has insisted that he is not crazy.

2 /10 Regularly Found Incompetent

Judge Martinez’s May 16 ruling still stands, so Dear will remain in the same mental health facility and receive regular evaluation every 90-day. However, he is now in federal custody.

The issue of his incompetence from now on will be addressed by federal regulation.

According to forensic psychologist Max Watchel, the standard for mental competency in federal court are almost the same as in Colorado’s; there are very few (if any) differences between the two.

In practice, however, Watchel said that it is easier for a defendant to be declared incompetent for trial in state court.

1 /10 Uphill Climb

Max Watchel said that federal prosecutors are facing an uphill battle to find Robert Dear competent.

The issue of competency will be almost certainly raised by the defense, which now has in their pocket several years of mental health evaluation results that claim otherwise.

As of December 2020, the man who openly admitted to killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and insisted on his competence to stand trial is not yet tried in state and federal courts. 

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