- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2002

A federal psychiatrist testified yesterday that Russell Eugene Weston Jr., who is accused of killing two U.S. Capitol Police officers more than four years ago, could become competent to stand trial within the next year if he continues to be treated for schizophrenia and delusions.
"It is a slow, gradual response. I remain optimistic because he continues to show positive change," Dr. Sally Johnson, a consulting psychiatrist for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Butner, N.C., said at a hearing yesterday.
The hearing, which was held at Butner, was teleconferenced to a courtroom at U.S. District Court in Washington for family members and friends of the victims to monitor.
Dr. Johnson testified that because Weston's forced medication began in January he appears to have fewer delusions. Weston, who has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic twice, originally told police that he went to the U.S. Capitol to retrieve a time machine he had built.
Prosecutors are asking U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to continue forcible treatment for one more year so Weston can regain his mental competency and can stand trial. Weston's attorneys have argued that it is unethical for their client to be forcibly medicated to stand trial and face the death penalty. Executions are prohibited under D.C. law, but the death penalty is permitted under federal law.
Judge Sullivan will hold a status hearing Tuesday to decide whether Weston's medication should be continued.
Weston is accused of the July 24, 1998, killings of U.S. Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut, 58, and John M. Gibson, 42, who were working inside the Capitol when they were fatally shot. He also is accused of attempted murder for shooting and wounding Capitol Police Officer Douglas McMillan during the incident.
Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who watched the hearing with family members, said the possibility that Weston would stand trial is a comfort to the families.
"It is a slow and painful process," Chief Gainer said.
"The defendant Weston appears to show some improvement and, hopefully, someday he will be able to stand trial for the murders," he said.
But A.J. Kramer, the federal public defender representing Weston disagreed. During the hearing, he said that it appears Weston has not gotten any better.
"In almost 10 months, there has been no change in delusions," Mr. Kramer said. "He's made no progress at all."
Judge Sullivan, who noticed Weston had gained considerable weight, said he believes Weston is more alert and listening to the proceedings. When Judge Sullivan asked Weston whether he understood the reasons for the hearing, he shook his head.
But when Judge Sullivan asked him whether he wanted to speak, Weston deferred to his attorney.

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