Judge: Arizona shooting suspect mentally incompetent
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six in a shooting rampage in Arizona is mentally incompetent to stand trial, a judge ruled Wednesday after two deputy U.S. marshals dragged the man out of the courtroom because of an angry outburst.
As survivors of the deadly January attack looked on, Jared Lee Loughner lowered his head, raised it and said what sounded like “Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me.” His words were loud but indistinct, and it wasn’t clear who he was talking about. He wore a khaki prison suit and sported bushy, reddish sideburns.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns’ decision means the 22-year-old will be sent to back to a federal facility in Missouri for up to four months, where doctors will try to medicate him to see if they can restore his competency to a point where he understands the case against him.
The ruling came after Burns said two mental health professionals had concluded Loughner suffers from schizophrenia and is mentally unfit for trial.
Loughner spent five weeks in March and April at a federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where he was examined by psychologist Christina Pietz and psychiatrist Matthew Carroll. The two were asked to determine if Loughner understands the consequences of the case against him.
Burns viewed 18 hours of the experts’ videotaped interviews with Loughner. He said the experts’ reports and videos were confidential, but he summarized their findings at the hearing.
The judge said Carroll concluded Loughner’s mental health has declined in the past two or three years and his thinking on legal issues is confused. Carroll believes Loughner doesn’t grasp the gravity of the charges against him and is instead fixated on inconsequential issues.
Pietz concluded Loughner’s thoughts are random and that he suffers from delusions, the judge said. She noted Loughner gave nonsensical answers to questions and doesn’t understand the role of judges or jurors.
Neither expert thought Loughner was faking his mental health problems, with Carroll saying Loughner doesn’t want to be perceived as mentally ill. A hearing to revisit Loughner’s mental competency is set for Sept. 21.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting at a meet-and-greet event that wounded Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.
Loughner was calm at the beginning of Wednesday’s hearing, tilting his head and swaying back in forth as he watched the attorneys argue in the packed courtroom.
Later, he lowered his head to within inches of the table in front of him, then lifted it and began to speak, interrupting the proceedings. His words were loud but difficult to make out. Some reporters also heard him say what sounded like “You’re treasonous.” The AP has asked the court clerk’s office for an official transcript and recording of the hearing.
Following the outburst, two marshals standing behind Loughner’s chair grabbed him by each arm and led him from the courtroom. Loughner’s father, sitting a few rows behind him, lowered his eyes and huddled with two women.
Shortly after Loughner was led away, the judge told the attorneys the suspect was entitled to be in the courtroom as long as he composed himself. “I don’t want him to act up or speak out,” Burns said.
After a 10-minute recess, the marshals said Loughner had calmed down. They then brought him back into the courtroom, and the judge asked Loughner if he wanted to stay and behave, or view the hearing on a TV screen in another room.