Family of Capitol shooting suspect appears before jury - Quad-Cities Online: Illinois

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Family of Capitol shooting suspect appears before jury

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Posted: Friday, August 21, 1998 1:00 am

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The parents and other relatives of a former mental patient charged with ambushing and killing two Capitol guards have completed their grand jury testimony and plan to return to their southern Illinois home.

Family members laid out for the grand jury Thursday suspect Russell E. Weston Jr.'s history of mental illness, oddball beliefs and fear of the federal government.

Prosecutors are seeking a murder indictment against Weston, who is accused of killing the two officers inside a crowded Capitol hallway on July 24.

``They are hopeful that the grand jury will have come to understand the mental illness of their son,'' said Steven Tabackman, a lawyer representing Weston's father, Russell Weston Sr. ``They are hopeful the public comes to recognize the problems that their son has and that caused the great tragedy at the Capitol.''

Prosecutors want information about Weston's mental history since his lawyers are expected to argue he was insane and thus not legally responsible for the killings. Weston, 41, is hospitalized with gunshot wounds and has entered no plea.

After a full day of questioning, Weston's parents, sister and brother-in-law left the federal courthouse without commenting. Their lawyers said they are finished testifying, and the family plans to return home today to Valmeyer, Ill.

Both defense lawyers and prosecutors have lined up a stable of experts to evaluate Weston's mental state. A diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, Weston told family and neighbors he believed the CIA was watching him and that he and President Clinton were clones, government documents show.

Prosecutors have offered no motive, but Weston's family told the FBI that he was agitated by a letter he received from a federal agency shortly before the shootings. The letter assured him land mines were not planted around his Montana cabin.

Neither Tabackman nor another family lawyer, William Moffitt, would detail the questions put to the Westons either by federal prosecutors or by grand jurors, but they said the family answered each question asked.

``This family has said from the very beginning they want to cooperate'' with law enforcers, Moffitt said.

Weston has been held without bond in a locked hospital ward since his arrest. Legal sources said a federal grand jury began hearing evidence in the case last week.

Weston's family testified a week after winning a delay that lawyers said would give the family time to prepare for questions about Weston's mental history. U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson agreed to postpone the testimony after the Weston family complained about subpoenas served in Weston's hospital room as they made their first visit with Weston since his arrest.

The Weston family told the FBI they did not see their son after he left their home the day before the shootings, allegedly taking two guns with him.

Officer Jacob J. Chestnut and detective John Gibson were killed and a 24-year-old tourist wounded in the attack.

If convicted of killing federal officers, Weston could face the death penalty.

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