- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

A federal judge is considering having a guardian oversee treatment of accused cop killer Russell Eugene Weston Jr. to satisfy an appeals court decision.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan Thursday said a guardian may be needed to ensure that any treatment of Weston, a diagnosed schizophrenic, is humane.

Judge Sullivan made his comments from the bench during the fourth day of hearings on whether Weston, who is accused of killing two police officers in the U.S. Capitol in 1998, should be forcibly medicated to become mentally competent to stand trial.

"I do want to give some thought that someone should be appointed to see to his medical interests," the judge said Thursday.

In a surprise move, Judge Sullivan asked prosecutors why they don't forgo seeking the death penalty, which would eliminate many of the ethical dilemmas of forcible medication. Weston could face the death penalty under federal law in the District of Columbia, which otherwise does not impose capital punishment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Walutes said it would be difficult to weigh the death penalty issue because the case has barely progressed. Although Weston has been in custody for two years and has been indicted, he has yet to be arraigned.

"The death penalty is an important decision," Mr. Walutes said. "You would be asking to forgo the death penalty simply because the defendant … has refused medication."

The judge set a hearing for next Thursday to discuss whether or how to appoint a guardian for Weston. Closing arguments on the forcible-medication issue concluded Thursday, but Judge Sullivan did not indicate when he would rule on the issue.

Judge Sullivan has been holding hearings since Monday about whether Weston should be forcibly medicated to stand trial. He has ruled that Weston is incompetent to stand trial and medication is needed so he can help in his defense.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in May overturned Judge Sullivan's September ruling that Weston should be forcibly medicated.

The appeals court sent the case back to Judge Sullivan and ordered that he consider whether forcible medication would be humane, whether it is medically ethical to treat a man who could face the death penalty and if Weston has become more dangerous without treatment.

Weston is accused of slaying U.S. Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut, 58, and John M. Gibson, 42. The officers were gunned down when Weston, armed with a revolver, stormed the Capitol on July 24, 1998, according to the charges.

The accused said he stormed the building to regain control of a time machine he invented.

Judge Sullivan Thursday questioned prosecutors and Weston's defense attorney about the possibility of a guardian to oversee the accused killer's treatment.

The judge said some sort of guardian would resolve ethical problems in having the people treating Weston also working for the government, which could seek to execute him.

He said it would be difficult for him to be an advocate for Weston since he must rule after hearing evidence from both sides.

"I don't have a loyalty to this defendant. My obligation is to be sure everything is fair," Judge Sullivan said.

A.J. Kramer, Weston's attorney, said he is responsible for protecting Weston's legal interests but not for overseeing whether treatment is appropriate.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Goodhand said evidence presented during this week's hearings shows that Weston has become more dangerous over the past two years and needs treatment.

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