Fight Over Weston Medication Nears End

Posted March 1, 2004 at 5:52pm

Arguing that alleged Capitol Police shooter Russell Weston Jr. is “less firmly invested” in his delusional beliefs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office fired its final salvo before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan hears arguments on whether Weston should continue to be forcibly medicated.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is seeking a six-month extension of the court order requiring Weston’s medication, filed its argument Feb. 24 in response to a memorandum filed by federal public defender A.J. Kramer seeking to deny the extension. Sullivan will hold a hearing with both parties next Thursday.

Weston, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, is charged in the July 1998 shootings that killed Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson. He has been required to take anti-psychotic medication since January 2002 in an attempt to make him fit to stand trial.

In its most recent filing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, represented by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Walutes and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bruce Hegyi and David Goodhand, addressed Kramer’s Feb. 4 memorandum, which argued that Weston’s mental state has not significantly improved during the past two years.

“As Dr. [Sally] Johnson testified at the latest evidentiary hearing, while it may be true that certain of the defendant’s delusions have persisted, he nonetheless is less firmly invested in his delusions, which is a significant improvement,” Walutes wrote.

At a February status hearing, Johnson, a psychiatrist who monitors Weston at the Federal Correction Institute in Butner, N.C., testified that Weston continues to assert he is a law enforcement official as well as that Sullivan and staff at Butner are escaped federal prisoners. Weston also has claimed to be a graduate of Harvard University, holding advanced degrees from both its law and medical schools.

Although the last court order expired Nov. 19, 2003, Sullivan approved a temporary extension allowing continued medication pending the March 11 hearing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also opposed Kramer’s argument that the time frame for treatment had expired — based on statements made by Johnson that predicted a one- to two-year window to determine whether Weston could be made competent to stand trial — stating “the time estimates have always been just that, estimates.”

The U.S. attorney argues the treatment period has exceeded two years because of the “extreme caution” used by Butner physicians in monitoring Weston’s medication.

Additionally, the attorneys opposed portions of Kramer’s memorandum, which cited the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Sell v. United States. In that decision, the majority outlined several conditions that must be met to forcibly medicate a defendant, such as a clear government interest in prosecuting a crime and lack of alternatives to forced medication.