Weston Ordered to Appear in D.C. Courtroom Oct. 1

Posted September 12, 2003 at 3:43pm

As the November cessation of forced medication of alleged Capitol Police shooter Russell Weston Jr. approaches, a federal judge has ordered him to appear in a District of Columbia courtroom for the first time in more than a year.

Weston, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, is charged in the July 24, 1998, shootings that killed Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson.

Declared incompetent to stand trial in April 1999, Weston has been forcibly medicated with anti-psychotic drugs since 2002. In the months since, Weston has periodically appeared before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan during hearings to evaluate his progress under the medication.

For the most part, those hearings have been held at the Butner, N.C., federal prison hospital where Weston now resides, and broadcast via videoconference to a U.S. District courtroom for observers. Previous hearings have drawn dozens of Capitol Police officers, as well as Chestnut’s and Gibson’s families.

Weston last appeared in person in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in August 2002, after which Sullivan ordered future hearings held in North Carolina “to minimize the impact of holding such hearings on the treatment of the defendant.”

According to court documents, Weston is scheduled to appear in the courtroom Oct. 1.

Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said the hearing will not differ from those held in North Carolina, during which Weston’s prison psychiatrist has testified regarding his progression under the medication.

“The hearing will be exactly the same in terms of what we’re seeking to accomplish,” Phillips said.

A.J. Kramer, the federal public defender representing Weston, declined to comment on the upcoming hearing, which could potentially be the last court date before a new trial to determine Weston’s competency is set.

The court order mandating Weston’s medication expires Nov. 19, and, among the possible outcomes of the October hearing, Sullivan could order a new competency trial.

Alternatively, the prosecution could seek an extension of the medication period, if it appears that Weston has made improvements but has not achieved the mental status needed to stand trial.

There also remains the possibility that if Weston’s mental state does not improve through medication, he could eventually be involuntarily committed on a long-term basis to a secure hospital facility rather than a prison. In such a situation, he would not be found guilty of criminal responsibility for his alleged actions.

Weston, who has been indicted but never tried, has been charged with two counts of murder of a federal officer, one count of attempted murder of a federal officer and three counts of using a firearm during a violent crime.

Kramer reiterated Thursday that he plans to file a motion based on the Supreme Court decision in Sell v. United States, issued earlier this year.

In that decision, the majority outlined several conditions that must be met in order to forcibly medicate a defendant, such as a clear government interest in prosecuting a crime and lack of alternatives to forced medication.

Weston’s attorneys earlier appealed Sullivan’s 1999 decision, which approved medication, arguing that their client has a constitutional right to appear at his trial in the same mental state he was in during commission of the crime.

However, the Supreme Court declined to take the case in December 2001, upholding an appeals court decision that medicating the defendant didn’t violate his right to a fair trial.

In interviews with a defense psychiatrist in 1999, Weston said he had entered the Capitol to locate the “ruby satellite system,” which he would use as a transporter and travel to a time when he is “no longer deceased.”