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Capitol Shooting Suspect Charged

July 28, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The criminal case and medical status of Russell E. Weston Jr. are as cloudy as the reasons why he allegedly shot his way into the Capitol last week.

Doctors on Monday upgraded Weston’s condition from serious to stable but said his gunshot wounds required more surgery.

Hours earlier, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson said she would evaluate Weston’s case ``day by day,″ with arraignment and additional charges possibly delayed until he is healthy enough to appear in court. Weston already is charged with murder in the Friday gunfight that killed two Capitol police officers and wounded a tourist.

And amid speculation that Weston _ once diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia _ could plead insanity in his defense, prosecutors said it was much too early to make any definitive decisions about their case or whether they would seek the death penalty.

``We’re preparing for all possibilities,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips said.

Weston, 41, was being kept under sedation and heavily guarded in his hospital bed at D.C. General Hospital. Dr. Norma Smalls said wounds caused by bullets that tore through bones and blood vessels in an arm and leg required more surgery and risked causing a blood clot that could threaten his life.

Weston ``is aware that he is a prisoner,″ Smalls said. ``We are able to speak to him, but there is some confusion on his part.″

Weston’s court-appointed lawyer, A.J. Kramer, said he had been able to speak with his new client for 45 minutes Monday morning but declined to discuss Weston’s condition or legal situation, other than to say, ``He’s not in good shape″ physically.

With the FBI, Capitol Police, Secret Service and others investigating the case, even queries into which one has custody of Weston do not have an easy answer.

``There are so many different agencies that have a piece of this guy, that even simple questions like this get complicated,″ said a frustrated Sgt. Joe Gentile of the Washington metropolitan police.

Still more unclear was Weston’s mental condition.

He was diagnosed years ago as a paranoid schizophrenic who suffers from delusions. At times Weston believed the federal government was watching him through a neighbor’s satellite dish or had spiked his land with mines. He once pestered a guard at the CIA’s headquarters with claims that he and President Clinton were clones.

Should Weston’s attorneys eventually decide to enter an insanity plea, such delusions may not be enough to make that case.

Insanity is a legal classification that goes beyond a diagnosis of mental illness

Under federal law, to plead insanity, it must be proven that a defendant suffers from severe mental illness and, at the time of the crime, was incapable of understanding the moral or criminal wrongfullness of what he or she did.

``We can have two paranoid schizophrenics committing the same act ... and one could be found sane and one could be found criminally insane,″ according to forensic psychiatrist Phillip Resnick, a consultant to prosecutors in the Unabomber and Oklahoma City bombing cases.

``Until you can find out his motive, and why he did what he did, you can’t know″ whether a defendant qualifies as insane, Resnick said.

If Weston’s lawyers decide to pursue an insanity claim, they first would ask a judge to order a 30-day psychiatric review, which probably would take place at the nearest federal prison, Phillips said.

Such defenses are difficult to prove, relying not just on psychiatric evaluation but on witnesses’ testimony and other evidence as well.

Insanity defenses are rare, arising in about 1 percent of all criminal prosecutions, according to Dr. Paul Appelbaum, secretary of the American Psychiatric Association. When raised, the defense is only about 25 percent successful, he said.

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