Jared Loughner Ruled Incompetent For Trial

The young man charged with the Tucson shooting rampage has been ruled not competent to stand trial. Michele Norris speaks with NPR's Ted Robbins, who was at Wednesday's hearing. During the proceedings, Jared Loughner was escorted from the courtroom after shouting at the judge.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Jared Loughner will not stand trial for the January shooting rampage in Tucson, at least not yet. Today, a federal judge ruled Loughner mentally incompetent and ordered that he receive treatment. The goal is to restore his competency so he can be tried.

Six people were killed in Tucson and 13 others were wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

NPR's Ted Robbins was in the courtroom today, where there were some dramatic moments. And he joins us now to talk about this. Ted, let's start with one of those moments. The judge at one point had Jared Loughner removed from the courtroom. What happened?

TED ROBBINS: Right. Let me paint the scene for you, Michele. I had an unusually good view. I was sitting in what's normally the jury box, so I could see straight on.

Jared Loughner came into the court. He was shackled in a tan prison jumpsuit. His hair brown - his brown hair was grown over his ears by now. He has a wispy beard and mustache. He did not smile or grin, as he has in previous appearances.

So the first order of business, though, was the motion by a lawyer representing the media to unseal some documents in the case for the public to see. Gradually, during those arguments, Loughner began rocking in his seat. And then he put his head in his hands.

And about the 40-minute mark, he suddenly yelled out loudly and quickly at Judge Larry Burns: Thank you for the freak show or thank you for the free shot; not quite sure. And then followed very clearly by: She died in front of me. And then he said either: You're treasonous or you're changing it; not quite sure about the last one either because it was loud and quick.

Everyone was stunned, except the U.S. Marshals. They grabbed Loughner, almost tackled him and they dragged him from the courtroom. The judge finished what he was saying and then there was a short recess.

NORRIS: So Jared Loughner, as we said, has been found not competent to stand trial. He will receive treatment, but how does that work?

ROBBINS: Yeah, the court - and so he had a five-week evaluation by a psychologist and another by a psychiatrist. They spoke with witnesses and friends. They took video of Loughner. They both have diagnosed him as schizophrenic. The important part, though, is that both reports conclude that Loughner is unable to rationally understand what's happening to him and he is not able to assist his lawyers in his own defense.

In fact, he apparently thinks that his lawyers are engaged in a conspiracy against him. That's the test of competency and he failed it. And both the prosecution and the defense agreed that he's too mentally ill to stand trial.

So now, he goes back to Springfield, Missouri, to the federal facility where he was evaluated. He'll likely get treatment if he agrees to help his illness -that it would help his illness. That could include medication.

If he doesn't agree to treatment, and experts who examined him say he doesn't think he's mentally ill, but the Supreme Court has ruled that he can be forced to take medication to restore him to competency. That, however, would require another court hearing.

NORRIS: Now, this puts the process on hold, I imagine, for how long?

ROBBINS: Well, up to four months. Could be shorter but that's the maximum that he can be held before another hearing and a report.

NORRIS: Any chance to assess the reaction there in Tucson to this...

ROBBINS: Well, I can tell you, inside the courtroom, victims and witnesses, you know, to the shooting were there. And New York Times reporter Marc Lacy was sitting in front of Loughner's father, Randy. He says that when the judge read from the reports that evidence showed his son had been mentally ill for two years, Randy Loughner sobbed.

Now, given the outburst today in court and the report showing the consistent signs of mental illness and for that long and currently, and the law, no one is disputing this ruling.

NORRIS: Ted, can you give us a very quick update on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her condition?

ROBBINS: Yeah, she is, as of yesterday, she was out of the hospital where she was, of course, recovering from the cranioplasty to replace part of her skull that had been damaged. And she is back in the rehab facility in Houston undergoing rehab again. So she continues to improve.

NORRIS: Ted Robbins, thank you very much.

ROBBINS: My pleasure.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Ted Robbins in Tucson.

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