Judge’s ruling blocks details in Dear case
A judge has blocked victims of last year’s Planned Parenthood shooting access to criminal discovery in the case against the accused gunman, saying Robert Dear’s right to a fair trial outweighs their interests in a lawsuit against the health care provider.
Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge Gilbert Martinez wrote in a ruling handed down last month that a protection order issued in the civil case is not sufficient to keep details of Dear’s prosecution from getting out to the public.
“Granting access to discovery to nonparties at the present time would unnecessarily risk compromising the integrity of the criminal proceedings and the defendant’s right to a fair trial,” Martinez wrote in the Nov. 23 ruling.
The prosecution against Dear is in limbo as he remains indefinitely incompetent to stand trial. Lawyers in the civil suit have said that without information from the criminal case and investigation into Dear — including police reports, photos and video — it is unlikely their case can proceed.
Martinez, in his ruling, said he will allow the lawyers in the civil case access to police history reports from the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. El Paso County prosecutors and Dear’s defense team both opposed the release of information to lawyers in the civil case.
“The Court is mindful of the fact that because of the defendant’s incompetency status there is no specific date as to when the criminal matter will proceed forward,” Martinez wrote. “Thus, the Court is open to revisiting the issue at a later date. However, at this early stage of the proceedings a release of the information is not appropriate.”
Three victims and the wife of a man killed in the shooting have joined the civil suit, which alleges Dear’s attack was both predictable and preventable. It was initially filed in Denver District Court in May. They include Mandy Davis and Ammar Laskarwala, who took an Uber from Denver to the clinic the morning of the Nov. 27, 2015, shootings.
Laskarwala was shot in the chest.
The lawsuit was first filed by Samantha Wagner, who was shot in the arm during the attack, and Ke’Arre Stewart’s widow, Ashley, and on behalf of the couple’s child.
Dear faces 179 counts — including eight charges of first-degree murder — for the shootings. He is accused of opening fire in the clinic’s parking lot before storming inside with multiple guns.
Before the five-hour standoff was over, three people were dead and nine others were transported to hospitals with gunshot wounds.