Jared Lee Loughner (22) the man who murdered six people and injured another 12, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has been ruled incompetent and unable to stand trial.
On Wednesday Federal Judge Larry A. Burns, in Tucson, ruled that Loughner was not mentally competent to stand trial. Experts believe that the defendant suffers from schizophrenia. He is undergoing treatment at a federal psychiatric facility in Springfield, Mo.
During the hearing on Wednesday Lounhner disupted proceedings with an outburst. Marshals were forced to remove him from the room.
He said “Thank you for the freak show…She died right in front of me. You’re treasonous.” Other witnesses believe he said “Thank you for the free shot.” It is persumed that he was talking about Giffords as she was the intended victim of his attack. A lawyer close to Loughner’s case said that he believes that he killed Congresswoman Giffords.
Before Loughner opened fire on the public and government representatives on January 8 at a supermarket in Tucson he shaved his head. After the attack his mugshot was reprinted in various publications – a shaved head and a maniacal grin.
In court on Wednesday Loughner had long sideburns and unkempted hair. He rocked back and forth in his seat and buried his face in his hands.
On September 21 Loughner will return to court and the Judge will review his case. Until then the case is suspended. The Judge will have to make sure that Loughner understands the 49 charges against him and that he is fit to defend himself.
Legal experts believe that Loughner might never be found competent and could remain in a facility indefinitely. However, Dennis K. Burke, a United States attorney, told the New York Times “Our goal has always been and always will be to go to trial.”
Unfortunately experts agree that that is not possible. Christina Pietz, a psychologist who works for the Bureau of Prisons and was appointed by the prosecution, and Dr. Matthew Carroll, a psychiatrist in private practice in San Diego appointed by the judge.
Pietz held 12 interviews with Loughner over nine hours. She said his thoughts were random, disorganized and that he suffered delusions and offered nonsensical answers to her questions. She diagnosed schizophrenia.
Carroll held five interviews over seven hours. He found that Loughner experienced delusions, bizarre thoughts and hallucinations and suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Carroll also said he showed no signs that he might be faking mental illness.
The Judge concluded “At the present time, Mr. Loughner does not have a rational understanding of these proceedings.”
Loughner’s parents, who were present in court, wept as the experts announced that their son’s mental health had been in decline for at least two years. The defendant had been expelled from the Pima Community College for classroom outbursts and his online ranting has also recently come to light.
The familes of the shooting victims had been prepared before the court hearing. They were told that there was a possibility that the case may never go to trial.
One of the victims, Eric Fuller, who was hit by bullet fragments in his back on January 8, was present in court. He said that it was clear Loughner was ill. He said “The mere appearance, very disheveled, very disorganized, you don’t have to be a professional psychologist to know the boy is disturbed.”
Giffords was shot through the left side of the brain. She is making a miraculous recovery in a rehabilitation center in Houston, Texas. She recently travelled to Cape Caneveral to attend the launch of the Endeavour Space Shuttle. Her husband Captain Mark Kelly is the commander of the mission. It is expected that she will be released from hospital over the next few weeks.