"Alleged Tucson Shooter Too 'Mentally Ill' for Trial, Judge Rules
Jared Lee Loughner is not mentally competent to stand trial on charges he killed six people and wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.
Based on court-ordered medical evaluations, the judge determined Loughner was incapable of understanding the proceedings, according to CNN.com.
The 22-year-old has been described as "gravely mentally ill" by his own legal team.
The decision came after Loughner was removed from the courtroom following an outburst in which he reportedly said, "Thank you for the freak show. She died right in front of me."
Loughner is charged with killing six people and wounding 13 more, including Giffords, during a shooting rampage in Tucson on January 8.
The judge ruled that Loughner would remain in custody and undergo treatment for the next four months. A hearing has been set for September 21 to determine whether his condition has improved enough for proceedings to resume.
Giffords, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, recently attended the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor, commanded by her husband Mark Kelly."
So if I get a traffic ticket can I go to court and state one or two odd sentences out of turn and get off for being "severely mentally ill?" Since when are you mentally ill and allowed to avoid getting REAL murder charges against you just because you say a few things out of turn in court? None of it adds up. He wasn't ranting or raving, just made a couple of odd comments. And everybody SAW him murder people that day so you'd think the judge would be on full alert for any stupid games his lawyers try to play to get him off on a mentally ill excuse. Why give in immediately like that? Who is the judge hooked into - because it looks like he just did Loughner a huge favor.
It sounds like this situation was a set up thing. If he was a programmed killer by the govt, for whatever purposes that shooting was , they won't make him go through the "legal process". It's pathetic.
"Obama Gun Control Policy: No Action Since Gabrielle Giffords Shooting In Arizona
WASHINGTON -- More than five months after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, the White House has yet to take any new steps on gun violence, even though that's what President Barack Obama called for in the wake of the shooting.
The silence from the administration is drawing criticism from gun control activists and even some of Obama's Democratic allies. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., told the president in a letter last week that the administration "has not shown the leadership to combat gun violence."
It's in keeping with Obama's general stance on gun issues since taking office: outspoken earlier in his political career in favor of tougher gun measures, he's treaded carefully since becoming president, almost never raising the topic except when asked and offering, at-most, tepid support for legislation he once embraced, such as re-enacting a ban on assault weapons.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in a statement that the Justice Department is "consulting with the key stakeholders to identify common-sense measures that would improve American safety and security while fully respecting Second Amendment rights."
Schultz declined to comment beyond that, but whatever the administration produces is likely to fall well short of the steps activists would like to see, such as legislation banning the kind of high-capacity ammunition clips used in the Giffords shooting. Any significant change of that kind would require legislation, but with Congress hostile toward any gun-control bills, the administration sees that avenue as closed.
A government official involved in the talks said that suggestions under consideration include ways to improve the background check system dealers use to avoid selling guns to criminals, which activists say is ineffective and riddled with loopholes. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private deliberations.
Some improvements could be made administratively, such as by providing states clearer guidelines on how to provide criminal information to the federal government for the background check database. Although such steps are not nearly as bold as activist groups, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, would like to see, they still hope to see something – and soon.
"We're coming on the six-month mark since the shooting and still nothing from the administration," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign. "It's time for some action."
The Justice Department deliberations began in March, after the president broke his usual silence on guns in an opinion piece in Giffords' hometown newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star. In it, he called for "a new discussion on how we can keep America safe for all our people."
Even then Obama steered clear of ambitious declarations, timelines or goals, but he did call for "sound and effective steps" to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including strengthening background checks. Obama said that "if we're serious about keeping guns away from someone who's made up his mind to kill, then we can't allow a situation where a responsible seller denies him a weapon at one store, but he effortlessly buys the same gun someplace else."
Helmke and others interpreted that as support for closing what's called the "gun-show loophole," which allows private sellers to sell firearms at gun shows and elsewhere without conducting background checks. Activist groups say that some 40 percent of gun sales are conducted without background checks.
But doing that would require legislation, and the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups are adamantly opposed. The NRA has not been involved in the Justice Department talks, but the National Shooting Sports Foundation has, and a spokesman said that when they met at the Justice Department, gun-control measures didn't even come up.
"The topics discussed at the meeting were limited strictly to improving and enhancing the current background check system," said spokesman Ted Novin, explaining that closing the gun-show loophole would amount to expanding the system, not improving it, and his group doesn't support an expansion. "No gun-control measures of any kind were discussed during the meeting, nor would this organization support any such proposals that would curtail the lawful commerce of firearms or the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens," Novin said.
With that kind of opposition from gun-rights groups, an election year approaching and attention focused on the economy, prospects for congressional action are dim. And the Obama administration, in turn, appears unlikely even to try to do anything more than make modest changes that don't fundamentally alter the nation's gun policies."
"Accused Tucson shooter, lawyers at odds over hearing
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner wants to attend a court hearing in Arizona next week, against the wishes of his lawyers who argued it could pose a risk to his mental health, court documents said.
Loughner, 23, was declared in May to be mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges he killed six people and wounded 13 others including Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in January.
U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns has ordered Loughner to attend a hearing at federal court in Tucson next Wednesday to determine if prison doctors should be given more time to make him mentally fit to stand trial.
The differences between Loughner and his attorneys emerged in the transcript of a hearing Burns held earlier in the week.
Christina Pietz, a clinical psychologist treating Loughner at a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, testified that Loughner wanted to attend the September 28 hearing in his home town to be able to see his family.
"I do think he has an ulterior motive why he wants to be in Tucson. I think he wants to visit his mother and father," Pietz said. "In addition to that, he understands that there is a hearing to make a determination if he can be having an extended stay in Springfield."
Loughner's attorney, Judy Clarke, meanwhile, argued that attendance at the hearing posed an "unnecessary risk" to her client, who is on suicide watch at the hospital in Springfield, and had been described as "gravely disabled."
Following the hearing, Burns ruled that Loughner must attend the hearing in Tucson on Wednesday that was set to decide on the extension prosecutors said was needed to restore his mental competency.
Prosecutors want another eight months to continue treating Loughner, who has been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. Loughner's defense team opposes any such extension.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 criminal charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder."
"Loughner attorneys seek another emergency block on drugs
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Lawyers for Tucson shooting rampage suspect Jared Loughner filed an emergency petition on Friday with a federal judge who already has twice refused similar requests, asking him again to halt the forcible medication of their client with anti-psychotic drugs.
In a 28-page filing, Loughner's defense team urged U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to order that the four-drug regimen administered involuntarily to Loughner be stopped immediately because it violates his constitutional due-process rights.
"There is presently no legal basis -- under any rationale -- to forcibly medicate Mr. Loughner," defense attorneys said in the court documents.
Citing what they said were signs of his improved behavior, his attorneys said Loughner is no longer a danger to himself or others, and therefore the justification for continuing the drugs did not exist.
Loughner, accused of opening fire on January 8 in a shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has received the drugs while being treated at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Missouri.
The 23-year-old college dropout has been housed at the facility since May, when Burns declared him mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Defense attorneys and federal prosecutors have battled over whether Loughner should be forced to take the drugs for several months, with Burns refusing in June and again in August to halt the treatments.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments last month about whether Loughner can be medicated against his will and on the procedures that must be used by prison officials to do so. The three-member panel has yet to render a decision.
Loughner is scheduled to appear on Wednesday in federal court in Tucson for a hearing to determine whether prison doctors should be given more time to restore his mental competency.
Prosecutors claim another eight months is needed to make him mentally fit to stand trial, while defense attorneys object to any time extensions.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 criminal charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder."
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the deadly shooting rampage in Tucson was quiet and emotionless and mostly sat still during a federal court hearing on his mental health.
It was a stark contrast from Jared Lee Loughner's last court appearance.
During that hearing, on May 25, Loughner had to be removed from the courtroom by federal marshals because of an angry outburst.
Dr. Christina Pietz, a psychologist who has been treating Loughner at Springfield, Mo. prison facility, testified Wednesday that his improved demeanor is a sign he can be made competent to stand trial within the next eight months.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns also cited Loughner's behavior in ruling there's a substantial probability Loughner's mental health can be restored. Burns noted at the end of Wednesday's hearing that Loughner had, for once, paid attention to the proceedings.
"There's reason to be optimistic he will recover and be able to assist in his case," the judge said. "The court finds that measurable progress has been made."
Earlier in the hearing, Loughner looked thin and pale and was wearing a white T-shirt and khaki-colored prison pants. He had closely cropped hair and sideburns, and his wrists and ankles were shackled.
As the hearing dragged on, Loughner swiveled back and forth in his chair at times, and sighed as the talk turned to video surveillance of the shooting and later his delusions. But for the most part, he sat still and expressionless.
Experts have concluded Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, and prosecutors contend he can be made competent with more treatment. But Loughner's attorneys argue prosecutors have failed to prove that it's probable his condition will improve enough.
Pietz said that when Loughner first arrived at the Missouri facility, he was convinced Giffords was dead, even though he was shown a video of the shooting.
"He believed it had been edited" by law enforcement, Pietz said.
Now that the 23-year-old is being forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs, "he knows that she (Giffords) is alive."
"He is less obsessed with that," Pietz testified. "He understands that he has murdered people. He talks about it. He talks about how remorseful he is."
Pietz added Loughner now makes eye contact with people and no longer has the inappropriate smirk seen at previous court hearings, which she described as a symptom of his mental illness. Burns also noted the absence of a smirk in issuing his ruling.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six and injured 13, including Giffords.
Pietz noted Loughner remains on suicide watch but is no longer having auditory hallucinations. Extending his stay at the Missouri facility by eight months will give him enough time to become mentally fit for trial, she told the judge.
"He has already made improvements, and he has only been on medication for 60 days," she said. "Given the progress he has made today, I have no reason to think he wouldn't continue to make progress."
Less than an hour into the May 25 hearing, Loughner lowered his head to within inches of the courtroom table and then lifted his head and began a rant. "Thank you for the free kill. She died in front of me. Your cheesiness," he said, according to court transcripts.
Federal marshals whisked him from the courtroom, and he watched the rest of the hearing on closed-circuit TV from a separate room.
The judge required Loughner's presence at Wednesday's hearing, even though his lawyers objected and argued traveling would be disruptive for their mentally ill client.
Loughner wanted to attend so he could see his parents, who live in Tucson and were at the hearing.
Burns on Wednesday decided to extend Loughner's stay at the Missouri facility for four months, adding that he would have to see more "measureable progress" before he could add more time. Burns also ruled that officials can continue medicating Loughner based on the prison's finding that he's a danger to himself.
Prison officials began forcibly medicating Loughner after concluding at an administrative hearing that he posed a danger at the prison. Loughner's lawyers have been seeking to have the judge, rather than the prison, decide whether Loughner should be medicated.
Loughner was first forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1, but an appeals court temporarily halted the medications after defense lawyers objected.
The forced medication resumed July 19 after prison officials concluded Loughner's psychological condition was deteriorating, noting he had been pacing in circles near his cell door, screaming and crying for hours at a time.
Defense lawyers have repeatedly asked Burns and a federal appeals court to halt the forced medications.
Loughner's medications include the sedative Lorazepam, the antidepressant Wellbutrin and Risperidone, a drug used for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe behavior problems.
If Loughner is later determined to be competent enough to understand the case against him, the court proceedings will resume. If he isn't deemed mentally fit at the end of his treatment, Loughner's stay at the facility can be extended. There are no limits on the number of times such extensions can be granted.
If doctors conclude they can't restore Loughner's mental competency, the judge must make another decision. If he finds there's no likelihood of Loughner being restored to competency, he can dismiss the charges.
In that case, state and federal authorities can petition to have Loughner civilly committed and could seek to extend that commitment repeatedly."
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jared Lee Loughner agreed Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison, accepting that he went on a deadly shooting rampage at an Arizona political gathering and avoiding the prospect of a trial that might have brought him the death penalty.
His plea came after a federal judge found that months of psychiatric treatment made Loughner able to understand charges that he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including his intended target, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner appeared relaxed and focused throughout the two-hour hearing, much of it devoted to a court-appointed psychologist's account of his normal childhood, his teenage depression, his descent into schizophrenia as a young adult and his gradual recovery in prison to the point that she felt he was competent to face charges.
The psychologist and judge did most of the talking, as Loughner looked at them intently and leaned slightly forward with no expression, his arms crossed over his chest. He appeared to show emotion only once — smiling and nodding when the psychologist, Christina Pietz, reported that he formed a special bond with one of the guards at the Springfield, Mo., prison where he has been held.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns noted Loughner's reaction to the prison guard comment when explaining his decision to declare him competent. He said Loughner was "tracking" the day's proceedings well and appeared to be assisting his attorneys in his defense, a break from the past.
"He's a different person in his appearance and his affect than the first time I laid eyes on him," Burns said.
During the hearing, Loughner didn't exchange words with his attorneys or glance around the courtroom, which was packed with victims. His parents, who observed from a back row, sobbed and embraced after he walked out looking frail on his feet and gazing straight ahead.
Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including attempted assassination of a member of Congress, murder and attempted murder of federal employees, and causing death and injury at a federally provided activity. As part of the agreement, the federal government dropped 30 other counts.
"I plead guilty," Loughner said repeatedly in a baritone voice as Burns listed each count.
His hair closely cropped, Loughner was not the smiling, bald-headed suspect captured in a mug shot soon after the January 2011 shooting. His demeanor was a complete turnaround from a May 2011 courtroom outburst that prompted Burns to declare him incompetent.
The prosecution and defense seemed eager to seal the agreement, a departure from previous marathon hearings. Judy Clarke, Loughner's lead attorney, gently pointed Loughner through a copy of the plea agreement on the table in front of him as the judge went through it. She declined to ask the psychologist any questions.
The plea agreement calls for a sentence of seven consecutive life terms followed by 140 years in prison, according to federal officials. Loughner, who will be sentenced Nov. 15, is ineligible for parole.
John Leonardo, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, called the agreement a "just and appropriate resolution."
"I hope that today's resolution of this case will help the victims, their families, and the entire Tucson community take another step forward in the process of healing and recovering from this sad and tragic event," he said.
The outcome was welcomed by some victims, including Giffords herself, as a way to move on.
"The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable," Giffords said in a joint statement with her husband, Mark Kelly. "Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery."
Ron Barber, a former Giffords staffer who was wounded in the attack and later won election to her seat after she stepped down, said he hoped the plea will help the victims and their families "move forward and continue our healing process."
"I truly believe that justice was done today," he said after the hearing. "It is important to me that this individual never again is in a position in which he can cause harm to anyone else."
Susan Hileman, who accompanied slain 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green to the gathering outside a supermarket and was wounded in the attack, said nothing would return her life to what it was before the shooting.
"This is so sad — a 23-year-old who's going to spend the rest of his life in a box. I feel empty. What I want, I can't have," she said, adding that she was relieved the case ended. Still, "it's like a Band-Aid that keeps getting ripped off."
Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist, testified that Loughner appeared to be a normal child and average student until he was 16, when a girlfriend broke up with him and a friend's father died. He was diagnosed with depression at the time and landed at an alternative education program at Pima Community College his senior year after he showed up drunk for school one day.
He was enrolled at the Tucson college until September 2010, alarming his parents and friends with his increasingly erratic behavior, Pietz said. He became obsessed with the U.S. Constitution, wrote jumbled words on the chalkboard and a final exam, and yelled incoherently in class.
Loughner's parents, Randy and Ann Loughner, told Pietz that their son once asked them if they heard voices. They worried that he would take his life.
Pietz recounted several turning points in Loughner's recovery in prison: regular exercise; counseling sessions with three other inmates; and prison jobs rolling towels, T-shirts and socks, and stamping envelopes. He has been forcibly medicated for more than a year after being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
"He loves his jobs," she said.
Pietz said Loughner's refusal to acknowledge that Giffords survived and his insistence that a surveillance video of the shooting was a fake made her reluctant to declare him competent. Over time, he acknowledged that Giffords survived the gunshot wound to her head, considering it a failure on his part.
"He's disappointed, this is another failure in his life, he set out to do this," said Pietz, describing his thinking as the realization set in that congresswoman survived.
Giffords has undergone intensive therapy and made dramatic progress recovering from her brain injury, yet her movements and speech are still halting.
For prosecutors, the plea avoids a potentially lengthy and costly trial and appeal, and locks up the defendant for life.
Clarke managed to avoid the death penalty for other high-profile clients such as "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics in the late 1990s and Atlanta's Olympic park in 1996.
One uncertainty hanging over the case is whether Loughner will face state charges. The plea agreement to the federal charges makes no mention of that possibility.
Pima County's top prosecutor said last year that she may file state charges in the case that could carry the death penalty. In an agreement with federal prosecutors, County Attorney Barbara LaWall agreed that the federal prosecution would take place before she could bring charges.
LaWall has been unavailable in recent days, and officials in her office have repeatedly declined to comment, saying the office did not have an active prosecution against Loughner.
A state prosecution after a successful federal one would not be unprecedented. Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols avoided the death penalty on federal charges after a 1997 trial and was given a life sentence. State prosecutors then tried him again, but a state jury also declined to sentence him to death."
"Gabby Giffords faces Tucson assailant as he is sentenced to life
TUCSON, Arizona (Reuters) - Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court to face her would-be assassin on Thursday moments before he was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, last year.
Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, under a plea deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed - one for each of the six people who lost their lives, and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords - represented the individuality of the victims.
"He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again," Burns said before Loughner was led away by federal marshals.
Giffords suffered a head wound in the January 8, 2011, shooting that left her with speech difficulties, a paralyzed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.
Loughner, who sat through the proceedings without addressing the court, showed no visible emotion as his sentence was pronounced or during statements delivered earlier in court by several survivors.
Giffords did not speak. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf.
"You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her commitment to make the world a better place," Kelly told him, with Giffords standing at his side as she impassively faced her assailant.
Loughner, seated next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke, appeared to gaze back at them without expression.
"Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible," Kelly told Loughner in a clear, ringing voice. "You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but from this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you."
Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recuperation.
Kelly also used the occasion to take a political swipe at Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch gun-rights advocate, criticizing her for speaking out against proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones Loughner used, in the aftermath of the shooting.
"Jan Brewer said it had nothing to do with the size of the magazine. ... She said this just one week after you used a high-capacity magazine," Kelly said, also noting that she named a "state gun" weeks later instead of "fixing the education system."
Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined comment on the criticism leveled against the governor.
"On this solemn occasion, Governor Brewer isn't interested in engaging in politics," he said in a statement. "This is a day of justice and peace. Governor Brewer wishes both for the victims and their families."
The proceedings marked a dramatic epilogue to a rampage of gun violence that shocked many Americans, added to the long-running debate over gun control and cut short the political career of Giffords, a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.
He admitted going to Giffords' "Congress On Your Corner" event armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill the Arizona Democrat.
Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
Court-appointed experts later said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions. He was declared unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.
Loughner was ruled mentally competent three months ago after being treated for psychosis at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.
Few clues to the motives for the attack have emerged. Prison psychologist Christina Pietz has testified that Loughner had expressed remorse for the rampage and especially for the 9-year-old girl's death.
His calm, quiet demeanor in court on Thursday contrasted sharply with the wild-eyed image of Loughner from an early mug shot that captured the then-bald defendant grinning maniacally into the camera.
Asked at the outset of the hearing by the judge if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, Loughner answered in a low voice, "That's true."
He was otherwise silent through the hearing, and made no attempt to avert the gazes of victims who testified before he was sentenced.
One of them was Giffords' former congressional aide Ron Barber, who also was wounded and ended up serving out the rest of her term after winning a special election.
Barber ran in Tuesday's election for a newly created U.S. congressional district in Arizona and was running neck-and-neck with Republican Martha McSally, with the outcome hanging on some 80,000 provisional and early votes that have yet to be tallied.
Speaking to Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy, who were seated in the front row of the courtroom, Barber said, "Please know that I and my family hold no animosity toward you, and that I can appreciate how devastating the acts of your son were."