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On Wednesday, Jared Loughner was dragged out of the court room in Tucson because of an angry outburst. After the strange interruption by Loughner, a U.S. District judge Larry Burns ruled that Loughner was mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Loughner is accused of killing 6 and injuring 12 including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in January. He has pleaded “Not Guilty” to the 49 counts. During the hearing, Loughner stated, “Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me.” His words were loud but mumbled, and it wasn’t clear who he was talking about.
The decision means that Loughner will be held in a federal facility for four months in order to restore his competency. When he is considered competent, he will face trial. If he is not mentally competent at the end of his stay, the length of time will be extended. This can be done repeatedly with no time limit. If psychiatrists eventually decide that Loughner’s mental competency cannot be restored, it will be up to the judge whether competency can be restored. If the judge decides there’s no likelihood of restoration, the judge can dismiss the charges against him. In that case, state and federal authorities can petition to have him civilly committed and could seek to extend that commitment repeatedly, said Heather Williams, a federal public defender in Tucson who isn’t involved in the Loughner case.
Loughner has already spent five weeks in March and April at a federal facility in Springfield, Mo., where he was examined by two court-appointed mental health professionals. The two were asked to determine whether Loughner understands the consequences of the case against him. The competency reports have not been released.
After the outburst, two marshals standing behind Loughner’s chair grabbed him by each arm and led him from the courtroom. A short recess was held and Loughner returned when he calmed down. Judge Burns gave him the choice of staying for the proceedings or watching in another room on the closed circuit television.
Loughner’s lawyers haven’t said whether they intend to present an insanity defense. But they noted in court filings that his mental condition will likely be a central issue at trial and described him as a “gravely mentally ill man.”