Lloyd Barrus, the suspect implicated in the 2017 killing of Broadwater County Sheriff's Deputy Mason Moore, will be medicated for trial.
Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley ruled Tuesday that Lloyd Barrus will be medicated with antipsychotic drugs, by force if necessary.
Lloyd Barrus and his son Marshall Barrus were part of a May 16, 2017, high-speed chase that started after the pair allegedly shot and killed Moore near Three Forks, 60 miles south of Helena. The chase ended in a shootout with law enforcement and the death of Marshall Barrus and the arrest of Lloyd Barrus after 184 miles of high-speed pursuit on Interstate 90.
Lloyd 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 Lloyd Barrus does go to trial and is convicted, he would face multiple life sentences in the Montana State Prison.
Tuesday’s ruling is the result of a Sell Hearing, a legal procedure to determine if the state can forcibly medicate someone to return them to competency, which was held in December 2018 and January 2019. A Sell Hearing requires the state to prove that important government interests are at stake, involuntary medication would make the defendant competent, involuntary medication is necessary, other alternatives are unlikely to work, and the use of drugs is in the patient’s best interests.
Lloyd Barrus suffers from a battery of mental illnesses, including delusional disorder with a persecutory type and mixed personality disorder with antisocial and narcissistic features, which made him unfit to stand trial. He refused to take antipsychotic drugs to treat his delusional disorder, which manifests in Lloyd Barrus’ beliefs that he is either Jesus Christ or Michael the Archangel, according to testimony from Dr. Virginia Hill, the head psychiatrist at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs.
Over the five days of the hearing, experts provided dueling testimony about the dangers of giving Lloyd Barrus antipsychotic medication and the side-effects of possible forcible medication. The defense’s expert, Dr. Robert Cloninger, argued that Lloyd Barrus’ age and the depth of his delusional disorder made forcibly medicating him a proposition that would do more harm than good and pushed for psychotherapy alone to treat Lloyd Barrus. The state’s experts, San Francisco Dr. Robert Newman and Dr. Hill, said medicating Lloyd Barrus with a conservative dose of antipsychotics would mitigate any health concerns and would make him competent.
Seeley determined that the state’s argument for medicating Lloyd Barrus was the clearest way to move the case forward. In her findings, the judge determined that trying him for the homicide of Moore was an obviously important governmental interest, that previous instances of being prescribed and taking antipsychotic medication showed the state’s plan had the ability to work, and that if Lloyd Barrus kept refusing medication the state hospital would be able to safely administer the drugs to him.
“Defendant’s condition cannot be cured,” Seeley wrote. “The aim is to have his delusions fade enough to enable him to assist in his defense, reduce his irritability, and help him accept treatment.”
That might take a while, according to Dr. Hill. In December, she testified that it could take up to two years for Lloyd Barrus to be competent enough to stand trial.