Journey Into Madness

Russell Weston Says He's Not Sick

Russell Weston is a schizophrenic. Sometimes, he describes himself as a brilliant scientist. Sometimes, he says, people confuse him with God. Because of this illness, Weston, who is accused of killing two police officers in the Capitol last year, finds himself in a strange position. 60 Minutes II Correspondent Scott Pelley reports.

Weston's madness exploded into violence last year on July 24. At the Capitol, Officer Jacob Chestnut, a father of five, was standing guard at a metal detector at an entrance. Witnesses say that Weston pushed a gun into Chestnut's face and fired. A few steps down the hall, Weston shot detective John Gibson, an 18-year veteran with three children. Gibson managed to fire back, hitting Weston three times and taking him down. Weston was captured soon after.

Six months after the Capitol murders, Weston was interviewed by a psychiatrist who wanted to know if Weston understands the charges he faces. Weston explained that he was on a crusade to wipe out cannibalism in America. He told the psychiatrist that he usually boils them in sour crude oil. There are between 40,000 and 50,000 cannibals in Washington D.C., he says.

The attack was a national tragedy. It seemed a senseless assault, with no motive behind the mayhem. But in Weston's mind there was a motive.

He explained to a psychiatrist that he was trying to reach something he calls "the great safe of the United States Senate." Inside, Weston expected to find the controls of a time machine he calls "the ruby satellite system." Weston said he invented the time machine for NASA. But he explained that the government was abusing the system and if he didn't take control immediately, the Earth would be destroyed. Weston says his time machine gives him immortality because of a feature he calls the time reverse sweep.

Xavier Amador, a psychologist and a leading authority on schizophrenia, has studied Weston's case. Amador was instrumental in the defense of another infamous schizophrenic, Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. He says that Weston has a brain disorder that renders him unable to separate fact from fiction.

"His delusions are such that he feels really important," Amador says. "He has some grandiose delusions and at other times, incredibly frightening. Now this is somebody who believes there have been implantations in his teeth that are controlling him. That satellites are controlling him and other people. That his life is in danger."

Shortly after the shootings, Weston's parents, Russell and Arbah Jo, said their son feared even them. He thought they were trying to kill him by putting explosives in his TV.

Weston grew up in rural Illinois, a "C" student with a talent for fixing machines. Thirteen years ago, at the age of 29, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. He was in and out of mental hospitals. Usually he refused medication.

Like most schizophrenics, he was not considered dangeous because he never hurt anyone. As a young man he traveled to Montana and lived, isolated, in a cabin. Ironically, his cabin was only 40 miles from Ted Kaczynski's shack.

He never met the Unabomber, but when Kaczynski was arrested Weston watched the coverage day and night. And his paranoia deepened.

His delusions began to focus more and more on the U.S. government. The Secret Service interviewed Weston twice because he told them President Clinton had sent a Navy commando to Illinois in order to kill him.

Then, in 1996, Weston bought a new suit, said goodbye to his parents, and drove from Illinois to Langley, Virginia where he walked into the headquarters of the CIA and announced he was there to apply for a job as the assistant director.

The CIA apparently considered Weston harmless and sent him on his way.

The question facing Weston now is whether drugs can make him competent to stand trial. He is refusing medication now, and he accuses the judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, of being a cannibal and a murderer.

According to Amador, Weston doesn't believe that he is sick. He says that he will not try to use the insanity defense.

Prosecutors want to force Weston to take anti-psychotic medication. The government says there's a 70 to 75 percent chance Weston will become competent if he is forced to take the medication.

Amador doesn't think that the medication will help. "It may restore him to legal competency," he says. "But he's still delusional."

If he stands trial, Weston faces the possibility of the death penalty. Weston has long feared the government was out to kill him. For the first time in his life, he may be right.

Amador says that Weston doesn't realize the danger he is in: "If you go inside his head he's on safe ground. This is a belief that he's held for well over a decade, that he could control time."

His parents remain stoic: "If it goes to a trial and that's what it is and they say he murdered the people and he wasn't mentally incompetent, we will accept whatever the jury comes up," his father says.

"However heartbreaking it is we will have to accept that because he did kill these two people, we know that the best in this whole situation that we can even hope for is that he will be in a mental institution for the rest of his life," his mother says. "That will be the best that we can hope for."

Produced by David Kohn;