Robert Lewis Dear, 57 told the judge at a Criminal court hearing in Colorado Springs, “I want to be my own attorney.” He appeared in court with his hair and beard unkempt and his hands and feet shackled. “Well, how can I trust my attorney if he says in the newspaper that I’m incompetent?” Dear asked the court. Dear is charged with 179 counts in connection with the shooting at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic on November 27. In addition to the three who were killed in the deadly shooting, another 12 people were injured.
The judge later asked prosecutors and spectators to leave the courtroom so he could discuss the matter with Dear and his lawyers. Dear’s lawyer, Daniel King, had suggested Dear may be mentally ill and said there are “serious concerns about competency.” Dear told a judge, “I do not want them as my lawyers. I invoke my Constitutional right to defend myself.” Dear’s attorneys were expected to address his mental health during the Wednesday hearing. Instead, his defense attorneys asked the judge to clear the courtroom to discuss Dear’s request to legally defend himself.
Judge Gilbert Martinez ordered a mental health exam for Dear. The ruling could delay the prosecution up to nine months – the result of a state mental health system grappling with months of backlogs for such evaluations.
Delays could stretch even longer if Martinez finds Dear mentally incompetent once the exam is finished, because Dear would have to be treated until a judge finds him capable of understanding court proceedings and participating in his own defense.