Jared Loughner’s terrifying booking photo is imprinted on all of our minds here at Wild About Trial — the wide, wild eyes, the eerie grin, and the glowing skull. His crime is the most notorious of 2011 — the shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head. While everybody has cheered on Representative Giffords’ remarkable recovery and mourned the loss of so many dedicated Americans, Loughner has languished in a federal prison medical facility in Springfield, Missouri, awaiting a trial that may never come. Loughner was found incompetent to stand trial in May of 2011, and only recently restored to competency. The federal district court took his guilty plea in exchange for life in prison.
Loughner is charged with 49 counts of murder and attempted murder. The death penalty, legal under federal law, is a likely punishment if Loughner is found to be mentally sound. The government may not execute a convicted murderer who is mentally ill.
For Loughner, it is far more likely that he will spend the remainder of his days in a psychiatric prison facility.
Jared Loughner’s terrifying booking photo is imprinted on all of our minds at Wild About Trial — the wide, wild eyes, the eerie grin, the glowing skull. His crime is the most notorious of 2011 — the shooting rampage that left six dead and 14 wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head.
While everyone has cheered on Representative Giffords’ remarkable recovery and mourned the loss of so many dedicated Americans, Loughner has languished in a federal prison medical facility in Springfield, Missouri, awaiting a trial that might never come. Loughner was found mentally incompetent to stand trial in May 2011.
More than a year later, Loughner was found competent to stand trial. He agreed to plead guilty to the murders and will be spending the rest of his life in prison.
Jared Loughner – The 23-year-old mentally ill man charged with the shooting in Tucson, Arizona that killed six people and left 14 others wounded. He has been indicted on 49 counts by a federal grand jury in Arizona.
Representative Gabrielle Giffords – The congresswoman from Arizona and the apparent target of the shooting.
Judy Clarke – Loughner’s lawyer, a seasoned criminal defense lawyer known for taking on the toughest capital cases and avoiding death sentences. She counseled Ted Kaczynski – the Unabomber – 14 years ago prior to his guilty plea and more recently represented al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. She is not a flamboyant or theatrical lawyer but rather is known for her tenacity and work ethic. She is well-respected by the federal judiciary and something of a legend among defense lawyers.
The Honorable John Roll – The federal district court judge killed by Loughner.
Christina-Taylor Green – The nine-year-old child killed by Loughner. Christina-Taylor was, in many ways, symbolic of the America of the early twenty-first century. She was born on 9/11/2001, and she died at the hands of a crazed gunman at Representative Giffords’ rally. Christina-Taylor hoped to pursue a career in politics herself and had just been elected to the student council at her school. She was a fun-loving, active child who excelled in dance, loved to swim, and was the only girl on her Little League team. She sang in the church choir, and she dreamed of a career in public service.
Does Jared Loughner’s Plea Agreement Deliver Justice?
Loughner Pleads Guilty To Ariz. Shooting
Victims Relatives Describe Tucson Shooting Aftermath
Family Friend Gives Portrait Of Loughner Mindset
August 15, 2012: Loughner pled guilty to the murder of six people a week ago. He will be facing a lifetime in prison as a result.
In many ways, this is the absolute best way the case could have been resolved, for both the victims and Loughner himself. The victims and their families have a true guilty plea as opposed to a guilty but mentally ill plea, and they can consider justice served. Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords issued a statement that she thought the right outcome has been achieved.
Likewise, Loughner will not be held in an endless limbo of mental health competency. If he had remained too mentally ill to assist in his defense, he would have been held indefinitely until he got better.
However, psychiatrists have been able to work with him to the extent that he is relatively stable and able to accept what he has done; he has expressed remorse for the deaths of his victims, particularly the nine-year-old girl.
The Tucson shootings were the stuff of nightmares – a group of concerned citizens gathering in a local shopping center to listen to their elected official, only to fall victim to a crazed gunman. The prosecution seems to have all they need to make their case – statements from Loughner that admit guilt, writings that appear to show that the attack was premeditated, and evidence that Loughner had a long-time fixation with Representative Giffords – everything but a defendant who is able to stand trial.
Loughner, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and whose MySpace writings and YouTube videos seem to bear out that diagnosis, was found to be incompetent to stand trial. In this case, that means he is so mentally ill that he cannot cooperate in his own defense – he cannot help his own lawyers, basically. In fact, during his court hearings he has made inappropriate outbursts a number of times, shouting at the presiding judge: “Thank you for the freak show,” and “she died right in front of me.” His inability to control himself in court proceedings is a clear indicator that he is not ready for the solemn rigors of a trial.
Also, Loughner believes that his attorneys – including the exceptional Judy Clarke – are engaged in a conspiracy against him. His inability to trust defense counsel is a classic sign that he cannot contribute to his own defense.
It is possible that with psychiatric treatment and medications he will be restored to sanity, but at this time no trial date has been set. The families of the victims of this shooting will likely be waiting for justice for some time.