Media Coalition Demands Access to Accused Planned Parenthood Shooter Court Documents

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Media Coalition Demands Access to Accused Planned Parenthood Shooter Court Documents

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A coalition of media organizations wants the Colorado Supreme Court to unseal the court documents related to the November siege of a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.

A Colorado state judge has 20 days to explain why court records related to accused Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Lewis Dear Jr. remain sealed, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled last week.

Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge Gilbert Martinez has until February 16 to justify his decision denying a media coalition’s motion to release the court records. Martinez in late December ruled that unsealing Dear’s arrest warrant and other court documents would be “contrary to public interest.” A media coalition petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court to reverse Martinez’s decision, arguing it violated the Colorado Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.

Once Martinez files his response defending his decision, the coalition will have 20 days to file its response before the Colorado Supreme Court will issue its ruling.

Dear faces 179 charges, including eight for first-degree murder for the November siege of a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood reproductive health-care facility that ended in a shootout with police. He was transferred to a state hospital, where he will undergo a mental health evaluation. Defense attorneys raised questions about Dear’s competency after several courtroom outbursts, including a proclamation by Dear that he is a “warrior for the babies.”

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Dear has accused defense attorneys of colluding with Planned Parenthood officials and trying to drug him. Court-appointed evaluators will try to determine if Dear is mentally competent to understand the proceedings and charges against him.

Dear’s attorneys had sought to limit the scope of Dear’s mental evaluation and block mental health professionals from asking Dear questions about facts in the case or his mental state at the time he is accused of taking the Planned Parenthood facility under siege. Dear’s attorneys argued those issues were irrelevant in determining whether Dear is competent to stand trial.

Defense attorneys had also sought to block the state hospital from disclosing to prosecutors any information about Dear’s evaluation.

Judge Martinez denied both requests.

Dear’s proceedings are mostly at a standstill until the evaluation is complete, a process that could take months. Meanwhile, prosecutors have not yet decided if they will seek the death penalty for Dear. The next hearing set for the case is February 24.