Loughner found incompetent to stand trial

Giffords shooting suspect
2011-05-25T14:00:00Z 2011-05-25T16:58:42Z Loughner found incompetent to stand trialTim Steller and Kim Smith, Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Jared Lee Loughner’s “major mental illness” leaves him so delusional and psychotic that he is incompetent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled today.

U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns viewed hours of videotape of Loughner, he said, and agreed with the conclusion of the psychiatrist and psychologist who evaluated him: Loughner can’t understand the court proceedings or help his lawyers.

“The defendant was generally unable to provide rational and coherent thoughts,” Burns said.

Citing a report by psychologist Christina Pietz , he said “ At times he answered simple questions with answers that were lengthy and nonsensical.”

Both Pietz and Dr. Matthew Carroll, a San Diego psychiatrist who also evaluated Loughner, agreed that he is schizophrenic. It was the first confirmation of a diagnosis many had speculated about for months.

They also concluded Loughner is definitely not “malingering,” or faking, Burns said.

“The defendant’s behavior has become increasingly odd over the last two years,” Burns said. “Most people who fake mental illness want to be described as mentally ill, but Mr. Loughner does not.”

In fact, Burns said, citing Carroll’s report, “He scoffs at it.”

In the middle of today’s hearing in U.S. District Court, Loughner put his head in his arms on the defense table, then reared up and interrupted an attorney’s comments.

“Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me,” he said. Then shouted “You’re treasonous!”

A pair of deputy U.S. marshals immediately grabbed Loughner and pulled him out a side door.

Some witnesses heard Loughner’s first words as “Thank you for the free pill” or “Thank you for the free kill,” rather than “freak show.”

Burns recessed the proceedings then had Loughner brought back into the courtroom. He offered Loughner the option of staying in the courtroom or watching proceedings on a TV in a side room.

“I want to watch the TV screen,” he said.

During the description of Loughner’s mental illness, his parents, seated in the third row, sobbed. More than 100 people were in the courtroom, including dozens of victims or their family members, dozens of reporters, and crowds of attorneys and deputy marshals.

Loughner is charged with shooting 19 people, killing six of them, at a Jan. 8 public event held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was wounded. He has pleaded not guilty.

After the hearing, lead prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst said Loughner will be returned to the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. in the next three to four days. That’s the same place where Loughner was evaluated for five weeks during March and April.

Burns ordered that new evaluations of Loughner be prepared by Aug. 31. He tentatively set a hearing for Sept. 21 but said it may not go forward if the evaluators find he continues to be incompetent.

A defendant can continue to undergo treatment and evaluation for months and even years as officials try to bring him to a level of competency that would allow him to stand trial.

Contact reporter Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or at 807-8427.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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