Crime

Gabrielle Giffords Gunman Jared Loughner: Incompetent to Stand Trial

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

The man accused of shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a rampage that left six people dead has been ruled incompetent to stand trial. It was a dramatic hearing in Arizona Wednesday as a rambling Jared Loughner had to be dragged out of the courtroom.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns agreed with two mental health experts that the 22-year-old Loughner suffers from schizophrenia and is unable to understand the charges against him. Neither expert thought Loughner was faking in order to avoid trial.

Loughner was ordered to a federal facility in Missouri for up to four months, where he will be treated in the hopes of bringing him to the point where he can understand the case against him. If that never happens, the judge could dismiss the charges against him. In that case, authorities can petition to have Loughner civilly committed.

The Associated Press reports that Loughner was calm at the beginning of the hearing, just tilting his head and swaying back and forth. Later, he lowered his head, then lifted it and began to speak.

The AP said his words were "loud but difficult to make out," but he said what sounded like: "Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me." Some reporters also heard him say what sounded like "You're treasonous."

Following that outburst, two marshals dragged Loughner out of the courtroom. After a 10-minute recess, they said Loughner had calmed down and they brought him back into the courtroom. The judge asked him if he wanted to stay or watch the rest of the hearing on a TV screen in another room.

"I want to watch the TV screen," Loughner said, and he was led away.

Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin wouldn't comment on the proceedings. "We've never commented on Loughner's legal case. There's no reason to start now." He also said he wasn't sure if Giffords would be told.