Tucson Investigation Starts To Lawyer-Up

As the prosecution readies its case against the alleged gunman in Tucson, the defense is getting ready as well. NPR's Martin Kaste tells us how cases such as this one typically evolve.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is breathing without a ventilator. Doctors inserted a tracheotomy tube into her windpipe yesterday. They also put in a feeding tube to help provide nutrition. Doctors are encouraged by her progress as she continues to open her eyes and move her limbs.

While the congresswoman recovers from the injuries she suffered after being shot in the head at close range, investigators search for motives for last week's rampage in Tucson.

NPR's Martin Kaste reports that even though alleged gunman Jared Loughner was caught at the scene gun in the hand, the case is not open and shut.

MARTIN KASTE: The first few hours of this investigation were described as organized chaos. That's certainly what Roger Salzgeber remembers.

Mr. ROGER SALZGEBER: That was pretty hectic. I probably had my name taken down at least six times by different sheriff's department officers as I sat on the curb pretty devastated.

KASTE: Salzgeber was one of the men who tackled Loughner and one of dozens of firsthand witnesses to the crime. Eventually, he and his wife got their turns inside the sheriff department's RV, where they were interviewed at length. A deputy asked most of the questions, he says, with an FBI agent listening in. Then a few days later, they came to his house.

Mr. SALZGEBER: A gentleman came out and went over our car one more time in excruciating detail looking, you know, for scratches or stray bullets, 'cause I think they have more or had more shell casings than they could find bullets.

KASTE: This attention to excruciating detail is remarkable given the magnitude of the case. The Pima County attorney's office says so far, victims and witnesses total about 150 people.

Unidentified Man: We got about 20 minutes left at the (unintelligible)...

KASTE: At the sheriff's department, deputies monitor live aerial surveillance video of the funeral of one of the shooting victims. Captain Frank Duarte says the investigation itself is now entering a new phase.

Captain FRANK DUARTE (Pima County Sheriff's Department): Most of the investigation at this point will now begin to do the forensics piece, doing up the research and all the pieces that you need to bring the puzzle together.

KASTE: With the physical evidence mostly gathered, attention is now shifting from what happened outside the Safeway to what happened in the days and weeks before the shooting. And Loughner's defense team will dig even further back.

Professor DAVID BRUCK (Clinical, Washington and Lee School of Law): The defense lawyer's job is to learn everything that there is to learn, that can possibly be known about her client.

KASTE: David Bruck is a clinical professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law. He's worked on similar high-profile murder cases as co-counsel for Loughner's new lawyer, Judy Clarke. He says Clarke most certainly already has private investigators on the case.

Mr. BRUCK: There has to be a thorough, a truly exhaustive investigation of the defendants' background, his life, what - his road in life, where he came from, why he may have done this, what his informative experiences were. It's an investigation that goes back generations.

KASTE: Bruck says the investigators will want to know if mental illness runs in the family, but not necessarily in order to mount an insanity defense.

Mr. BRUCK: The insanity defense means the person is legally not guilty, however, a guilty defendant still can and very often does present evidence at the sentencing part of the trial about mental afflictions that may have affected his blameworthiness at the time of the crime.

KASTE: In other words, Judy Clarke will try to find reasons to head off the death penalty for her client, as she's done for other famous clients, such as Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

But even if Loughner avoids the federal death penalty, local prosecutors still reserve the right to file charges of their own.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Tucson.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.