From the Washington Post May 25, 2011:
Suspect in Ariz. shooting spree that wounded Rep. Giffords found incompetent to stand trial
By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 12:37 PM
PHOENIX — A federal judge has ruled that the suspect in the Arizona shooting rampage that wounded U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is mentally incompetent to stand trial, putting the criminal case on hold indefinitely.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns means 21-year-old Jared Lee Loughner will be sent to a federal facility for up to four months in a bid to restore his competency.
TUCSON – A federal judge Wednesday agreed with two doctors that suspected Tucson shooter Jared Loughner is not competent to stand trial, and he will be hospitalized in a facility in Springfield, Mo., to receive treatment.
At about 11:45 a.m., Loughner started rubbing his forehead, he lowered his head and rocked back and forth, according to those in the courtroom. He looked at the judge and blurted, “Thanks for the freak show. I saw her die in front of me.”
Loughner was then escorted from the courtroom by U.S. marshals.
Loughner will not be released from custody while he is being treated, and he could remain hospitalized indefinitely if he does not get well but is determined to be a danger to himself or others, according to those familiar with federal law.The goal is for Loughner, charged with shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killing six others on Jan. 8, to voluntarily take medications that his doctors will prescribe for him so his competency is restored and he can face charges, said Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“We believe he can be restored to competency with proper medication,” Sherwood said.
Loughner, charged with 49 crimes that left 13 injured, has pleaded not guilty.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns means Loughner can be held for up to four months before another hearing will occur to determine if he’s competent to stand trial. If Loughner refuses to take his medication, the judge could order he be involuntary medicated, Sherwood said.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 affirmed the authority to administer anti-psychotic drugs to a criminal defendant only to render that person competent to stand trial.
Paul Charlton, Arizona’s U.S. Attorney from 2001 to 2007, said in a phone interview that Loughner could be held as long as it’s determined “he is a danger to himself or others.”
Determining whether a person is competent is a three-prong process, said Michael Bayless, a Phoenix-based forensic psychologist who is familiar with the case.
Bayless said a defendant is incompetent to stand trial if the defendant:
Has a mental disease or defect that prevents the person from understanding the nature of the proceedings.
Suffers from a disease or defect that prevents the person from being able to help his or her lawyer to present a defense.
Does not understand what it means to plead guilty in court.
Bayless said if Loughner never is restored to competency, he will remain at a mental hospital.
“He will stay until he proves to the staff he’s not dangerous to himself or others,” Bayless said. “It could go for rest of his life if he never gets better. If he gets better, he will go back to trial.”
Loughner was treated by Drs. Christina Pietz, a staff psychologist at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., and Matthew Carroll, a San Diego-based forensic psychiatrist. The doctors agreed that Loughner was not competent to stand trial. They did not testify Wednesday, as prosecutors and attorneys for Loughner previously agreed that they would rely upon the doctors’ written reports.
E-mails released last week show that instructors, students and administrators at Pima Community College worried that Loughner was unstable because of repeated class disruptions and run-ins with campus authorities.
Now Loughner will be sent to a federal facility, much like one where he underwent evaluation, for restoration to competency.
“Generally speaking, that kind of treatment could be long and drawn out,” said Dr. Steven Herron, a Tucson psychiatrist who has led restoration efforts.
There have been hints that Loughner may not be cooperating with his attorneys, specifically, two letters that he wrote to the judge and that the judge turned Clarke, the lead defense counsel.
COMMENT: Raises a lot of questions like if Loughner is mentally incompetent to stand trial, how was he mentally competent to buy a semi-automatic weapon?
Another thought (this from a former prosecutor)….some people start acting crazy well in advance of their criminal act so they can hide behind the defense of mental incompentcy. Being held in a mental institution beats being held in jail. And we don’t execute crazy people.