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Suspect in Colo. Shooting Case Faces Eight First-Degree Murder Charges

December 10, 2015 — A man accused of killing three people and injuring nine others in a shooting incident at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last month will face 179 felony counts, including first-degree murder, the New York Times reports.

A hearing in the case was held on Wednesday (Fausset, New York Times, 12/9). The next hearing in the case will be Dec. 23 (Coffman, Reuters, 12/10).

Background

The man, Robert Dear, allegedly opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., late last month (Frosch, Wall Street Journal, 12/9). Since surrendering, Dear has been held without bond (Reuters, 12/10).

One police officer and two civilians were killed during the assault. An additional five police officers and four civilians were injured (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1).

Hearing Details

Dear will face eight charges of first-degree murder for the three deaths. Dan May, district attorney for Colorado's Fourth Judicial District, explained that each of the murder charges has a different underlying legal theory. For example, in regard to the murder of one individual, one of the charges alleges that Dear acted with "deliberation" and another alleges he acted "in furtherance of a burglary," the Times reports.

According to the Times, other charges include attempt to commit first-degree murder and first-degree assault (New York Times, 12/9). A conviction in Colorado for first-degree murder can result in the death penalty or life in prison. Once Dear enters a formal plea, the district attorney will have 63 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty (Wall Street Journal, 12/9).

During the hearing, Dear's public defender, Daniel King, questioned Dear's competency to stand trial (Gurman, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 12/10). According to Reuters, Dear's competency could be discussed at the next hearing (Reuters, 12/9).

Meanwhile, a federal investigation into the shooting is underway, according to a spokesperson for John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado. Under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (PL 103-259), using intimidation or violence to interfere with a patient's use of reproductive health services is a federal crime (Wall Street Journal, 12/9).

Dear States Guilt, Makes Antiabortion-Rights Comments

During the hearing, Dear said he committed the shooting and made several antiabortion-rights statements. According to the Times, Dear's formal arraignment has not been scheduled (New York Times, 12/9).

Dear also reportedly made antiabortion-rights statements to law enforcement officials immediately following his arrest (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/1). However, authorities have not yet publicly stated a motive for the shooting, and Dear's arrest warrant remains sealed (Wall Street Journal, 12/9).

According to Reuters, the judge on Wednesday issued a gag order on law enforcement officials and lawyers in the case (Reuters, 12/9).