Lloyd Barrus glances at Assistant Attorney General Mary Cochenour

Lloyd Barrus glances at assistant attorney general Mary Cochenour Wednesday at the Lewis and Clark County Courthouse. The hearing will determine if Barrus can be forcibly medicated to stand trial for the killing of deputy Mason Moore in May 2017.

Day three of a complex hearing in the case of a man accused of involvement in the killing of a Broadwater County deputy in 2017 continued Friday in Lewis and Clark County.

The man at the center of the hearing is Lloyd Barrus. Barrus and his son Marshall were involved in the homicide of Broadwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Mason Moore on May 16, 2017. The Barruses shot Moore in his vehicle and then returned to fire another 20 rounds at the car before fleeing. That began a chase that covered nearly 200 miles and ended in Granite County with the death of Marshall Barrus and the capture of Lloyd.

Barrus is charged with one count of accountability to deliberate homicide, two counts of accountability to attempted deliberate homicide, assault on a peace officer and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He is not currently considered competent to stand trial for those crimes.

The state has called Dr. Alan Newman, a California psychiatrist with experience in complicated criminal cases. Newman has testified in similar cases to the Barrus case, but not in cases involving the involuntary application of anti-psychotropic drugs, testimony Friday confirmed.

Medications are necessary to treat Barrus, according to Dr. Newman. Defense attorney Craig Shannon argues that clinical practices suggest cognitive behavioral therapy, a less forceful manner of treatment for delusional disorder, is a better option. Shannon worries that treating Barrus with medication in a forcible manner might exacerbate dangers to Barrus’ mental and physical health.

Understanding if forcible medication will worsen Barrus’ current mental state is a key part of the hearing, as defense lawyers argue that research literature about Barrus’ condition involve consenting patients and would not apply to involuntary medication. Barrus’ mental illness makes him extremely paranoid of the government and unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions, according to court testimony. Barrus has said shooting at law enforcement officers was “self-defense” as he believes they were attempting to harm him.

Using Barrus’ time at Atascadero State Hospital in California to prove he responded to involuntary medication previously was a point of contention during the cross-examination of Newman.

“He was in the category of one’s who responded,” Newman said about Barrus’ previous time taking anti-psychotic medication.

Cross-examination disagreed and said that other reports by probation officers after the 2000 standoff showed that Barrus was still paranoid after medication and argued that cognitive behavioral therapy would be better for Barrus’ mental health. Previous testimony by Montana State Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Virginia Hill argued that while at the Montana State Hospital, Barrus had failed to respond to that exact kind of therapy.

The complication of diagnosis for mental illness was another important point of contention. The defense argues that Barrus might not be correctly diagnosed and because of that wrong diagnosis, medication will fail or make Barrus more ill than he already is.

Barrus was held at the Atascadero State Hospital for more than a year in the early 2000s after a standoff with law enforcement officers in Death Valley. Barrus, his son Jeffery and Barrus’ girlfriend stood down officers for nearly a full day and forced a helicopter to make an emergency landing after it was clipped with a bullet fired by one of the fugitives.

Afterwards, Barrus was medicated for a diagnosed delusional disorder and showed improvement and understanding about his previous thinking being wrong, according to documents referenced by Newman. Part of testimony showed that Barrus did take anti-psychotic medications under protest, but did not apparently offer any physical resistance to the hospital’s treatment.

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There is no doubt that Barrus is suffering from mental illness.

“If you speak to someone with a delusional disorder and avoid the rabbit hole, they seem pretty normal, is that right?” Shannon asked. “Well in Mr. Barrus’ case that’s a pretty big rabbit hole,” Newman said. “It’s about the size of that mine in Butte.”

When asked how long Barrus had been mentally ill, Newman said he was unsure when his mental illness had begun, but could say it continued.

“I can give you the high end of the range -- now,” Newman said.

There was no resolution at the end of the day Friday, as the defense’s psychiatrist has not yet been called. A January date was set to finish the Sell Hearing.

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Crime and Health Reporter

Crime and health reporter for the Helena Independent Record.

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