Hundreds await mental competency evaluations through state of Colorado; meantime cases put on hold

Hundreds await mental competency evaluations through state of Colorado; meantime cases put on hold

By Mark Boyle
This article originally appeared on on December 29, 2015
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DENVER – Minutes into admitted Planned Parenthood shooter Robert Dear’s court hearing, his outbursts stunned the courtroom. Dear spoke out in court out of turn dozens of times immediately bringing about big questions about his mental competency to be in court.

Right now, Dear is in jail awaiting a court ordered mental competency evaluation that prosecutors say may be 6 to 9 months away.

But he’s not the only one.

Iris Eytan is an attorney with Disability Law Colorado who says there are nearly 100 offenders with varying degrees of crimes that are stuck in jail awaiting an evaluation at the state hospital in Pueblo.

“This is a historical problem that has arisen in this state for the last seven years,” said Eytan. “These poor victims, they want some justice, they want an answer to what’s happening in the criminal justice case and they can’t even move because the state hospital has floundered so horribly.”

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Tuesday, a federal judge heard from attorney’s from Disability Law Colorado who were granted an expedited discovery period ahead of the next hearing on a lawsuit filed by them, against the state, in 2011. Eytan says the state agreed to terms and measures to clear up the backlog, however the backlog remains. Last week, a federal judge agreed to re-open the lawsuit.

“We’re not angling for money, this isn’t a money case, this has nothing to do with that, we’re not walking away with damages, all this has to do with is making sure the constitutional rights are maintained, that’s it,” said Eytan.

A judge hearing the Robert Dear case could ask the state hospital to expedite his evaluation given the high profile nature of the case, but that’s a notion Eytan doesn’t agree with.

“I don’t feel like he should hop-scotch over people who’ve been waiting in the jail since June waiting for an evaluation,” said Eytan.

Disability Law Colorado and the state will be back in court on March 17 and 18.