Planned Parenthood Shooter Wants To Defend Himself In Court


robert lewis dear mugshot

Robert Lewis Dear, the man arrested for killing three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado last month, has invoked his constitutional right to defend himself in a court of law. Dear has been charged with 179 counts, which include first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Earlier this month, Dear, 57, said he killed the three victims, one police officer and two civilians, and called himself a “warrior for the babies.” At the time of his arrest, Dear reportedly said, “No more baby parts.”

Abortion rights and reproductive health advocates have argued for violence against abortion providers to be treated as domestic terrorism, given the fact that the legal definition of domestic terrorism is a dangerous criminal act “intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population” or “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.” The Colorado Springs shooting happened after a wave of attacks against abortion providers last year — almost one in five clinics experienced severe violence last year — and the number of clinics experiencing threats increased from 26.6 percent in 2010 to 51.9 percent in 2014, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Clinic Access Project report.

The project tracks threats against clinics that provide abortion and found that almost one in five clinics experienced severe violence last year — a largely unchanged statistic since the late 1990s. Recently, the number of clinics impacted by threats and intimidation has climbed from 26.6 percent in 2010 to 51.9 percent in 2014.

The judge in the Colorado Springs case, Gilbert A. Martinez, has ordered Dear to undergo a mental competency evaluation, which could take months, the Associated Press reported. Dear may make it difficult for the state mental hospital to administer the evaluation: He said he didn’t want a doctor to “make me a zombie,” and asked the judge, “Do I sound like a zombie? Do I sound like I have no intelligence?”

There are a few recent cases of people charged with murder representing themselves in court and winning, although they are very different from Dear’s. In 2008, a man defended himself against charges that he murdered a sleeping man with a baseball bat in Prince George County and was found not guilty. In 2011, a jury acquitted a man who defended himself in a multiple homicide trial after new information came to light about the accused’s cousin. However, these kinds of victories for defendants who represent themselves, or pro se defendants, are rare, veteran lawyers say.

In an interview with Christi Paul on New Day, A. Scott Bolden, a defense attorney and former sex crimes prosecutor, said it might be possible for Dear to argue he was insane at the time of the shooting.

Paul asked how that would work, saying, “It seems unfathomable that you would say — you would be competent to defend yourself, but then you’d be saying that you were insane.”

“Well, these are mutually exclusive issues, though. The snapshot of whether you’re competent is his current state of mind. In connection with his insanity defense, is that what was on his mind and was he mentally stable to commit the act when he killed those individuals?” Bolden said. He added that although there have been cases of defendants defending themselves and pleasing insanity across the country, none have been successful.

Bolden pointed out that the main reason for Dear’s decision to defend himself may be to further push his own ideological agenda.

“Remember, Robert Dear is a, quote, ‘warrior for the babies’ and an anti-abortion activist. A lot of this is about his ideas and about him getting them on the front page as well as before the court and the public,” Bowden said.


Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress