Weston Indicted in Capitol Killings
MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
Oct. 09, 1998
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal grand jury charged Russell E. Weston Jr. on Friday with murdering two policemen and attempting to murder another at the U.S. Capitol last summer.
Weston, 41, who has a 20-year history of mental illness, was indicted on two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and three counts of using a pistol during a violent crime. He could face the death penalty.
``It's definitely not a surprise,'' said Barry Boss, an assistant public defender representing Weston.
An arraignment was set for Wednesday, at which time the defense may begin unfurling an insanity defense. Weston was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic years ago.
Capitol Police Officers Jacob J. Chestnut and John Gibson died of gunshots from a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver fired by Weston during the July 24 incident, prosecutors say. A tourist, Angela Dickerson, 24, of Chantilly, Va., was slightly wounded.
Weston remains in custody without bond, hospitalized with gunshot wounds he received from Gibson, who blocked Weston's entry into a suite of offices occupied by Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the House majority whip.
The incident began when Weston burst through a metal detector at a door on the East Front of the Capitol. According to prosecutors, he killed Chestnut there with an execution-style shot to the back of the head as the officer was writing out directions for a tourist.
From that point, Weston ran down a first-floor Capitol hallway, where he fired on Capitol Police Officer Douglas B. McMillan before ducking through a doorway and confronting Gibson, prosecutors have said. The shots Weston allegedly fired at McMillan were the basis for the attempted murder count in the bare-bones, four-page indictment.
On Sept. 23, bandaged and appearing frightened, Weston was pushed into a federal courtroom in a wheelchair for his first appearance before a judge since the shootings. He was there to answer one federal murder charge, covering the deaths of both officers.
He did not enter a plea, although he could have done so, and neither his lawyers nor prosecutors raised the potentially central issue of Weston's mental status. The defendant said he understood the charge against him. Afterward, Weston's lawyers declined to discuss their legal strategy.
But a team of defense psychiatrists has been authorized to visit Weston, and their evaluations likely would form the basis for any insanity claim. Prosecutors have lined up their own doctors, but they have not yet been allowed to visit Weston.
Weston, whose family lives in Valmeyer, Ill., near St. Louis, remains under guard in a locked ward at D.C. General Hospital, where he has weathered at least five surgical operations. At last month's court appearance, he was still unable to walk, defense lawyer A.J. Kramer said.
Over a period of years, Weston wrote frequent letters to government agencies, complaining about grievances such as his belief that land mines were planted on the grounds of his Montana cabin, court papers show. He once drove up to the guard hut outside CIA headquarters and delivered a rambling discourse on President Clinton, Marilyn Monroe and cloning, government court filings have said.
Prosecutors have offered no suspected motive for the shootings.
If Weston and his lawyers make an issue of his sanity at next Wednesday's arraignment, Weston would likely be ordered to undergo a preliminary review by government doctors at a federal prison hospital.
Eventually, a judge would have to decide whether Weston is competent to understand a trial and whether he understood the difference between right and wrong at the time of the shootings.
Weston's parents testified before the grand jury in August. They have spoken about their son's 20-year history of mental illness and his fear of the government.