Weston Medication Hearings Continue Thursday

Posted June 25, 2004 at 6:31pm

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday as to whether the court order requiring the forced medication of alleged Capitol Police shooter Russell Weston Jr. should be extended for the fourth time in two and a half years.

Prompted by what is described in court documents as “significant gains” from Weston’s medical treatment, federal prosecutors filed a motion in early May seeking a six-month extension, the fourth such request since Weston began taking anti-psychotic medication in January 2002.

In response, federal public defender A.J. Kramer filed a subsequent motion June 15 seeking to deny the extension and end forced medication of his client. (Although the court order requiring Weston’s medication had been set to expire May 19, it has been temporarily extended during the motions process.)

Weston, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic charged in the July 24, 1998, shootings that killed Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, has been forcibility medicated for the past 30 months in an attempt to make him fit to stand trial.

Federal prosecutors have based their most recent motion on behavioral changes observed earlier this year by staff at the Federal Correction Institute in Butner, N.C., where Weston is housed.

During a May status hearing held to review Weston’s progress on the medication, forensic psychiatrist Sally Johnson, who works at the North Carolina facility, described Weston’s participation in a mid-April mock trial exercise, held as part of a group therapy class designed to teach patients about the legal process.

Johnson, who did not attend the April 22 exercise, testified that the class facilitator had lavishly praised Weston for playing the role of the defense attorney in a mock federal counterfeit case.

According to court documents, Johnson wrote in an April 28 report: “Although in his sessions with this evaluator and his attorney Mr. Weston continued to demonstrate delusional ideas, his subsequent behavior in [the Competency Restoration Group], and discussion during individual interview demonstrate he does understand legal proceedings in a criminal case, the concept of identifying a workable defense, and the concept of limited success of certain defenses given the evidence.”

But Johnson continued: “What has not yet been clearly demonstrated is his ability to apply these skills to his own case.”

The competency standard, which Weston failed to meet in an April 1999 hearing, requires a defendant to understand the proceedings and to be able to adequately assist in his own defense.

In response, Kramer argued that despite the extended medication period, Weston’s mental status has not significantly improved.

“This court can no longer order the involuntary medication in the context of the criminal case,” Kramer wrote. “This court has been told for five years that there is a substantial probability that defendant will regain his competency with continued treatment with medication. For over 2-1/2 years, defendant has been medicated. … Yet defendant has not regained competency, and while he functions better in the prison system, his delusions about his case remain unchanged.”

According to court documents, Weston continues to maintain numerous delusions, including assertions that he is a graduate of Harvard University, holding advanced degrees from both its law and medical schools.

Weston also maintains that he is a law enforcement official and that Sullivan as well as the Butner staff are escaped federal prisoners.

Additionally, Kramer notes that Weston continues “as he always has, to maintain his innocence and to claim that he had legal authority to do what he did.”

In the June 15 filing, Kramer requests that the court end Weston’s medication within 30 days, stating that “‘lengthy commitment in an institution for the mentally ill’ is an acceptable alternative at this point to a criminal trial.”

If Weston, who has been indicted but never tried, were to be committed on a long-term basis to a secure hospital facility rather than a prison, he would not be found to bear criminal responsibility for his alleged actions.