Suspect in White House Attack Ruled Competent to Stand Trial


A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Francisco Martin Duran is mentally competent to stand trial for allegedly firing 27 shots at the exterior of the White House on Saturday.

Magistrate Deborah Robinson issued the ruling on the recommendation of prosecutors even though Duran cut short his one-day psychiatric exam by refusing to answer all the doctor's questions. He did so after his court-provided lawyer, Leigh Kenny, filed motions--later denied by the court--to halt the examination.

The competency evaluation was intended to determine whether Duran is capable of understanding the charges against him and assisting in his defense at trial.

Prosecutors also continued to consider filing a more serious charge of attempted assassination against the 26-year-old Colorado resident. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The four counts already lodged against Duran carry an aggregate maximum punishment of 35 years in prison.

The evidence against Duran includes handwritten notes left in his pickup truck, which was found parked near the White House. The exact content of the notes remains a mystery, although federal sources have said that one suggests he expected to die in his attack.

A second note scrawled on a map, the sources said, contains the words "kill the . . . " followed by a misspelled word believed to be an abbreviation for "President." It is this note, together with statements by a former co-worker, that has led investigators to believe Duran intended to harm President Clinton.

The former co-worker, David Millis, who once worked with Duran at the Broadmoor resort hotel in Colorado Springs, has told FBI agents that Duran once said he wanted "to take out the President."

At the time of the shooting, the President was watching a college football game in a rear bedroom of the White House and was nowhere near the line of fire. Duran, standing on a public sidewalk in front of the White House, fired what the Secret Service now estimates were 27 shots from a Chinese-made semiautomatic assault rifle. About eight chipped the exterior of the mansion and the adjoining West Wing, which houses Clinton's office and the press briefing room.

The magistrate, citing public safety, ordered Duran to be held without bail over objections of his attorney.

His attorney argued that the government had failed to show Duran intended to harm anyone, even Secret Service agents who she said hid behind trees as they rushed toward Duran.

The four charges lodged against Duran to date are possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, causing more than $100 damage to federal property, assaulting or endangering federal agents and using a firearm in the commission of a violent crime. Duran has not yet entered a plea.

Times staff writer Ronald J. Ostrow contributed to this story.

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