Weston Faces Commitment Hearing Monday

Posted August 12, 2005 at 5:20pm

Alleged Capitol Police shooter Russell Weston Jr. will face civil commitment proceedings in a North Carolina courtroom Monday, at which time a federal judge is expected to determine whether Weston will be involuntarily committed to a secure hospital facility.

Federal prosecutors sought the hearing when criminal prosecution against Weston, who is accused in the July 1998 shooting deaths of Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson, was put on hold indefinitely in November 2004 after a three-year regimen of court-ordered medication failed to render him competent to stand trial.

According to court documents, the proceedings will ascertain whether Weston, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, “is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect as a result of which his release would create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another.”

Weston will appear before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina via video conference from the Federal Correction Institute in Butner, N.C., where he has been housed since 1999, after a federal court determined he was incompetent to stand trial.

According to one expert involved with the case, forensic psychiatrist Sally Johnson, who monitors Weston at Butner and is familiar with the commitment process, it is likely that the court will rule that Weston should be confined to Butner or a similar institution, where he would likely continue to be medicated with anti-psychotic drugs.

During a November hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Johnson suggested it is “unlikely” that the court would not commit Weston.

However, should Judge W. Earl Britt, who is scheduled to hear the case, determine that Weston should not be committed to a hospital facility, he would remain in federal custody.

Additionally, even if Weston is sentenced to a mental institution, the government would not be prohibited from pursuing a criminal case in the future if the court determines Weston has regained competency.

Although Weston has been indicted in the officers’ deaths, he has never been tried.