The doctor recommended Russell E. Weston Jr. be hospitalized indefinitely, meaning he might never stand trial for the July 24 shooting deaths of the two Capitol guards.
Prosecutors must choose at some point whether to continue pressing for a trial. Weston has entered no plea, and he does not need to do so until the issue of Dr. Sally Johnson's findings is settled.
In the meantime, prosecutors want to see mental records that Johnson used to prepare her report. Defense lawyers oppose that request, and the judge set a hearing date Jan. 8.
Weston's lawyers have made no secret that they planned to pursue an insanity defense if the case reaches trial. Weston was diagnosed years ago as a paranoid schizophrenic, and his family has said he suffered from powerful delusions that the federal government was spying on him.
Johnson found Weston "suffers from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incapable of assisting in his defense," U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said during a brief hearing.
The judge did not say whether Johnson gave any more precise diagnosis, and her written evaluation of Weston was sealed by the court.
Johnson, chief psychiatrist at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina, evaluated Weston for several weeks this fall to see whether he is mentally able to understand a trial. She did not address his mental status at the time of the shootings.
"We were not surprised by Dr. Johnson's report," defense lawyer A.J. Kramer said outside the courthouse. Several doctors hired by the defense have also evaluated Weston, and Kramer said, "There is no information that conflicts her report."
Johnson concluded Weston might become mentally fit for trial if hospitalized and treated, and recommended Weston be committed to a mental hospital for long-term treatment, the judge and Kramer said.
Initially, Weston would likely go to Johnson's facility in Butner, N.C., for four months of treatment or evaluation. If still unfit for trial at that point, Weston would be evaluated periodically to see if his condition had improved.
Kramer would not say whether he supports that recommendation, or whether he would oppose drugs or other mental treatment for Weston.
"We're just taking it one day at a time," Kramer said.
Medication to make an incompetent defendant well enough for trial raises ethical questions for doctors and lawyers. Lawyers for some patients have argued that prosecutors cannot force drugs on a suspect just so the suspect may be put on trial.
During the hearing Weston sat slumped in a wheelchair, his jaw slack and his hair in disarray, while Kramer spoke to the judge.
Several feet away sat Evelyn Gibson, widow of offier John Gibson, and Wendy Chestnut, widow of officer Jacob J. Chestnut. Neither woman spoke during the hearing and they declined comment afterward.
Weston was shot several times by police after he barged past a metal detector and opened fire on officers. One leg is still immobilized in a cast, and two large pins protrude from one arm.
Weston, 41, has been held without bond since shortly after the shootings. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murdering a federal officer.
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