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United States v. Dear.

No. 22-2142. 6/10/2024. D.Colo. Judge Carson. Competency to Stand Trial—Motion to Involuntarily Medicate Defendant—Sell v. United States—Specificity of Findings—Clear and Convincing Evidence.

June 10, 2024

In 2015, Dear attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs and was arrested. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with delusional disorder, persecutory type, and the state court found him incompetent to stand trial. Dear remained in state custody for about four years during which time he was repeatedly found incompetent to stand trial. In 2019, the federal government indicted Dear on 68 counts. After Dear expressed a desire to represent himself, the government moved for a competency evaluation under 18 USC § 4241. A psychiatrist evaluated Dear and determined that though he remained incompetent due to his delusional disorder, he was substantially likely to be restored to competency through administration of antipsychotics. Based on the psychiatrist’s report, and because Dear refused to take antipsychotic medication voluntarily, the government moved to involuntarily medicate Dear under Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003), which provides that a district court may grant a motion for involuntary medication if the government satisfies Sell’s four-part test by clear and convincing evidence. Following a Sell hearing, the district court granted the government’s motion to involuntarily medicate Dear.

On appeal, Dear challenged the district court’s finding on the second Sell prong—that medication is substantially likely to restore him to competency—maintaining that the court failed to sufficiently consider his evidence and to make accompanying specific findings in support of its determination. Orders directing involuntary medication require some level of particularized findings. Here, the district court specifically explained that while it had carefully considered the defense experts’ testimony, it placed greater weight on the government’s experts because of their extensive experience restoring competency and their personal experience observing and interacting with Dear. And in this case, the weight placed on competing expert testimonies was dispositive to the resolution of the government’s motion. Accordingly, the district court provided sufficiently comprehensive findings.

Dear further challenged the district court’s finding on the second Sell prong by asserting that the court clearly erred in finding that the government met its burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that involuntary medication was substantially likely to restore him to competency. He maintained that the government’s expert testimonies were “exceedingly weak” on findings specific to him. However, the district court did not clearly err in finding a substantial likelihood of restored competency because the government’s experts specifically and persuasively rebutted the defense experts.

The order granting the government’s motion to involuntarily medicate Dear was affirmed.

The full opinion is available at

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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