Lloyd Barrus listens to testimony Monday (copy)

Lloyd Barrus listens to testimony on Monday, Jan. 29, in front of Judge Kathy Seeley at the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse.

No decision was made in the long and complex five-day hearing to determine whether Lloyd Barrus would be forcibly medicated to stand trial in the killing of deputy Mason Moore.

Barrus is at the center of a Sell Hearing, a legal procedure that allows a court to determine if a defendant can be forcibly medicated to restore mental competency.

The state wants to medicate Barrus in order to return his mental capacity to a state that would enable him to offer rational support to his defense attorneys. Barrus' defense says his delusional disorder is so advanced that simply medicating him, by force if necessary, would drive Barrus further into his delusions and would make it even more difficult to bring him to trial.

The hearing resumed Monday after a seven-week hiatus and wrapped up Tuesday.

Barrus and his son were part of a May 16, 2017, high-speed chase that kicked off after he and his son allegedly killed Broadwater County deputy Mason Moore near Three Forks, 60 miles south of Helena. The chase, which ended after 184 miles of high-speed pursuit on I-90, ended in the death of Barrus’ son, Marshall, and the arrest of Barrus.

Barrus has been charged with deliberate homicide, two counts of accountability to homicide, assault on a peace officer and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted person, all felonies. But he is also currently considered incompetent to stand trial by the court. If Barrus does go to trial and is convicted, he would face multiple life sentences in the Montana State Prison.

Tuesday's hearing was devoted to a cross-examination of Dr. Claude Cloninger, a professor of psychology and genetics at the medical school of Washington University in St. Louis and a noted expert on delusional disorders, the mental illness Barrus has been diagnosed with.

Cloninger does not believe that forcibly medicating Barrus will help bring back competency, but prefers to deal with Barrus through psychotherapy and treating symptoms that arise from dealing with the root of the problem, Barrus’ consistent delusions and paranoia about the government and conspiracies against him.

Much of the prosecution's cross-examination attempted to determine if Cloninger's use of the medical literature and research surrounding delusional disorders and medication was accurate.

Cloninger said if medication to treat Barrus' anxiety and other symptoms was administered along with cognitive behavioral therapy, it would "take a lot of will" from the Montana State Hospital to "restore [Barrus] to interact with the public and society."

Montana assistant attorney general Dan Guzynski said that Barrus just had to meet the "Dusky standard," a court definition that means a defendant needs to only have a "reasonable degree of rational understanding" and a "rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."

Barrus has a persecutory complex that brings out a deep distrust of the government and medicines, according to court testimony from both State Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Virginia Hill and Cloninger. Barrus believes that medicines are "potions" and God does not want him to ingest them because they will make him incapable.

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A somewhat heated exchange between Cloninger and Guzynski highlighted some of the tensions in determining how to treat Barrus. Cloninger believes therapy, along with a trusting relationship with his psychiatrist, will help Barrus return to competency.

"You're taking into account what he did and are suggesting kindness and respect can cure him?" Guzynski asked.

"Every human being has intrinsic dignity. If we reduce the justice system to punishment ... it doesn't allow the restoration of the victims or the person," Cloninger responded.

"What I'm comparing is your recommendation of therapy, your milieu of suggestions ... even though he destroyed Mason Moore, you're suggesting he can respond?" Guzynski asked.

"He was sick, incapable of responding," Cloninger said.

Judge Kathy Seeley asked the prosecution and defense to prepare briefs on what they believe are the key facts and findings from their experts and will take them under advisement as she crafts her decision. The timeline on her decision is unclear, but Barrus is scheduled for another hearing in her court at the end of February. 

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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