Fla. airport shooting suspect has resumed taking medication, awaits death penalty decision
By PAULA MCMAHON | Sun Sentinel | Published: November 4, 2017
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — The man accused of killing five people and wounding six in a mass shooting earlier this year at Fort Lauderdale's airport has resumed taking anti-psychotic medication for schizophrenia and remains mentally competent to stand trial, his attorneys told a judge on Friday.
Esteban Santiago, 27, stopped taking the drug Haldol in September because he was experiencing painful side effects, his defense team said.
Doctors at the federal detention center in downtown Miami, where Santiago is jailed awaiting trial, prescribed a different medication, Zyprexa, which appears to be working, the attorneys said.
Under questioning by U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom, who is closely monitoring Santiago's mental health status, defense attorneys said their client remains competent to stand trial. He has been diagnosed with a number of psychiatric conditions and reported hearing voices and sought help at an FBI office weeks before the shooting.
Santiago, an Iraq War veteran who grew up in Puerto Rico and most recently lived in Anchorage, Alaska, has pleaded not guilty to 22 criminal charges linked to the Jan. 6 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Officials at the U.S. Justice Department have not yet decided if they will seek the death penalty for Santiago.
The defense has a Nov. 22 deadline to submit a package of evidence and arguments to try to persuade prosecutors not to seek the death penalty. The filing is expected to include details about Santiago's history of mental illness, his military service in Iraq and other aspects of his life.
The decision on whether to seek the death penalty is made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions after a Justice Department panel in Washington, D.C., considers presentations from the defense and the U.S. Attorney's Office in South Florida. If prosecutors don't seek the death penalty, Santiago would face life in federal prison if convicted of the most serious offenses.
His trial is currently scheduled for Jan. 22 in federal court in Miami, but it could be delayed.
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