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Loughner still incompetent for trial, hearing set

Attorneys sign on to motion to extend commitment

A government psychologist said accused Jan. 8 gunman Jared Lee Loughner is still incompetent to stand trial, according to a Thursday order from a federal judge.

While Loughner's mental state is improving, Dr. Christina Pietz said he should remain in a prison hospital for another four months, according to an order setting a hearing on the matter for next Monday. 

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns scheduled a hearing for 1:15 p.m. Monday (Tucson time) in San Diego that will determine if Loughner should remain in a federal prison medical facility in Missouri, where Pietz has been treating him.

It's likely that Burns will order that Loughner remain; his attorneys signed onto a motion by the government to extend Loughner's commitment. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said they would offer no other evidence than Pietz's Jan. 25 competency report on Loughner.

Loughner has been at the Springfield, Mo., hospital since shortly after his arrest. His latest four-month stay there was set to expire next Wednesday.

While Burns revealed little about the recent evaluation by Pietz, he said in his order that she reported "the defendant remains incompetent to stand trial, in particular because he lacks an adequate understanding of the nature and consequences of the charges against him."

Pietz did say that "the defendant has made measurable progress toward competency and that his mental state will continue to improve," Burn wrote.

Loughner cannot stand trial until the court determines that he is able to understand the charges against him, and can assist his lawyers in his own defense.

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Burns set the hearing despite both defense and prosecution stating that they were not requesting one. He said in his order that his
"inclination is to extend the defendant’s commitment by another four months."

The judge ordered that Loughner not be moved from the Missouri prison hospital for the hearing.

Loughner faces 49 federal charges in what authorities allege was an assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including Giffords, who recently resigned from Congress to focus on her recovery.

Fourteen of the charges against Loughner could result in the death penalty.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 5 »

Feb 5, 2012, 4:16 am
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Loughner probably is not playing with a “full deck of cards”. But, please allow me another card-related analogy…his crime was so horrific, and clearly pre-medidated, that the “crazy” card shouldn’t be allowed to be played. To me it looks as if he’s working the system pretty well. Larry Burns is supposed to be smart enough to know better…I guess the bar for federal judges has been set pretty low or something.

I say it is time for Arizonans again to do the job the feds won’t do. A year and counting, and Loughner’s trial start date is no where in sight. The victims, their families, and this community deserves much better, and it is absolutely inexcusable that justice in this matter has been constantly and unnecessarily delayed. A year is plenty of time to start someone’s, anyone’s, trial.

I call upon the Pima County attorney, or the Arizona Attorney General’s office, to do the job the feds won’t do. Any deference those two offices show the Federal Government is out of courtesy, not obligation. Since that courtesy has not been returned nor appreciated, it is time to take matters in to our own hands. Loughner is caught dead-to-rights for six counts of first-degree murder, 13 counts of attempted murder, and a whole host of lesser charges. I say it is past time to indict at a local level, and finally do the right thing that the feds won’t do.

Feb 4, 2012, 8:53 am
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Personally,  I am just as emotional over this as any other Tucson native, but if you look at Jared’s psychological track record, he is the very definition of an anti-social, paranoid schizophrenic.  We have an insanity plea for that very reason (in AZ it’s considered “guilty but insane”) - if anyone is deserving of this title, and the legal proceedings afforded to it, I would say it would be him.  Yes, there is evidence that it was premeditated, making it more sticky. And NO, I do not want him to walk free or to get off easy in any way.  Labeling him insane does not remove his guilt, or change what he did.  It does, however, lend a credible hand toward explaining how an individual could commit such a horrific crime.  Jared Loughner is not playing with a full deck of cards; I think we can all agree on that much.

Feb 3, 2012, 9:52 am
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I’m gonna throw out a conspiracy theory here…again, just a theory, but it seems to fit…

Though this tragedy happened in Tucson, it has been thrust on the national stage. Also on the national stage was the Casey Anthony trial.

Casey Anthony got a pass on killing her daughter because the idiotic jurors couldn’t tell the difference between doubt and reasonable doubt.

The intention based on what we’ve seen so far from the federal courts is that they intend to give Loughner a pass on his crimes because he’s “crazy”.

My conspiracy theory is that the federal court system knows that the public would be so outraged by seeing two people get a pass for their crimes in a short amount of time. This is why they’re deliberately stalling this idiots trial…they’re waiting for people to forget Casey Anthony before they proceed. Allowing two people passes in such a short amount of time would enrage the public so badly that they might actually do something about it. Space it out long enough between passes…and the public will still be mad, but not mad enough to do anything about it.

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