Jared Lee Loughner’s defense attorneys have issued subpoenas seeking information on his relatives histories of mental health illness. In January 2011 Loughner opened fire on a crowd gathered in Tucson, Arizona. The shooter killed six and injured 14 people including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head and survived.
Loughner’s lawyers are delving into the health histories of his grandparents and numerous other Illinois ancestors. After the shootings on January 8 his second cousin Judy Wackt told the Washington Post, how her mother and aunts had experienced bout of mental illness.
She said “There’s a history in the family of what they used to call manic depression, which I guess they now call bipolar disorder…My mother battled depression. One of her sisters had extreme bouts. She’d be O.K., then she’d dissolve over time. Wouldn’t leave the house. Wouldn’t bathe. Wouldn’t interact with her husband or children.”
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Speaking to the New York Times this week Wackt said “I’ve spoken to his attorney and the psychiatrist for his defense team, and I’ve said all I want to say.”
Two mental health experts have already diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia. Bureau of Prisons psychologists have been forcibly medicating him, as per a court order, because he is deemed to be a risk to himself and others.
Loughner (22) was found unfit to stand trial in May. Federal district judge, Larry A. Burns, order that Loughner’s case be reviewed on September 21. Currently he is being held at a psychiatric facility in Springfield, Montana. He will only stand trial if he can understand the 49 federal charges against him assist in his own defense.
The prosecution lawyers have described how Loughner has thrown chairs at his own lawyers. Suffers from chronic insomnia (sometimes not sleeping for up to 50 hours), paces his cell so much that his legs have swelled. He has also been described as suicidal.
His defense lawyers are looking for records in Illinois, according to the New York Times report, dating back to 1893, when Mary Johnson Totman, his great-grandmother was born.
It seems that his defense team will use these records to bolster their case for an insanity plea and eventually argue against the death penalty.
Christopher Slobogin, a professor of law and psychiatry at Vanderbilt Law School said “If the defense can show that mental illness runs in the family, they have a stronger case, one that is more convincing to the jury…Short of a brain scan that shows mental defect, a family history of mental illness is the most persuasive evidence that someone had significant mental problems at the time of the crime.”