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Jan. 8 shootings

Will Loughner be found incompetent for trial?

The doctors who performed competency examinations on accused Jan. 8 shooter Jared Lee Loughner won't be questioned in court next week.

Both defense and prosecution sent letters to the court Monday saying that doctors' written reports provide enough information to decide whether Loughner is able to stand trial, and that the findings would not be disputed.

By not requiring the doctors to testify, the defense signals that the examinations showed that Loughner may not be competent to stand trial. If the doctors had determined that he is able to stand trial, a more vigorous response from his attorneys would be expected.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns scheduled a May 25 hearing to determine if Loughner is able to to understand the charges against him and assist his attorneys in his defense. The hearing will not address his mental state at the time of the attack.

Dr. Christina Pietz and Dr. Matthew Carroll performed their examinations of Loughner at a Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Missouri last month. The defense declined the opportunity to have an examination performed by an outside expert.

If Loughner is found to be unable to stand trial, he would remain in custody to receive treatment until he is found competent—a process that can take months, if not years.

Loughner, 22, is accused of killing six and shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt at a Jan. 8 meet and greet with constituents.

He is also charged with wounding 12 others, not including Giffords.

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In March, Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in the Jan. 8 attack. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.

Fourteen of the charges Loughner faces could result in the death penalty, if the prosecution seeks it. No decision of whether to ask for capital punishment has been made, authorities have said.

Loughner will likely face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said.

From Judy Clarke, Loughner's lead attorney:

Having discussed this court’s order of May 11, 2011 with counsel for the government, and based on our understanding that the government does not intend to dispute the conclusions of Dr. Pietz and Dr. Carroll, undersigned counsel hereby notify the court that neither Dr. Pietz nor Dr. Carroll need to be present for the hearing on May 25, 2011, and that the doctor’s reports are sufficient for the court to make a finding.

From U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke:

Now comes the United States of America, by and through its attorneys undersigned, having discussed this Court’s order of May 11, 2011 with counsel for the defendant, and based on the understanding that the defense does not intend to dispute the conclusions of Dr. Christina Pietz and Dr. Matthew Carroll, or call any additional witnesses, the government hereby notifies the Court that neither Dr. Pietz nor Dr. Carroll need be present for the May 25, 2011, hearing, and that the doctors’ reports are sufficient for the Court to make a finding on the issue of competency.

49 charges

Loughner, 22, is accused of killing six and shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt at a Jan. 8 meet and greet with constituents.

He is also charged with wounding 12 others, not including Giffords.

In March, Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in the Jan. 8 attack. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.

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Fourteen of the charges Loughner faces could result in the death penalty, if the prosecution seeks it. No decision of whether to ask for capital punishment has been made, authorities have said.

Loughner will likely face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said.

Giffords recovering

Recovering from a shot through the left side of her brain, Giffords was moved to a Houston rehab facility two weeks after being wounded. Doctors have said her recovery is "remarkable."

Giffords' next medical hurdle is the replacement of the portion of her skull that was removed to allow her brain to swell without injury, said her chief of staff, Pia Carusone, at a Monday press conference.

The congresswoman's rehabilitation is "certainly a slow process," Carusone said. "It requires a lot of patience, and understanding that recovering from being shot point-blank in the head takes time."

Giffords "understands, if not everything, close to everything" when presented with complex concepts, Carusone said.

"She understands sarcastic humor," she said.

"Her voice sounds very normal, it sounds as it did before the shooting," she said.

"She's able to fluctuate her volume level" and express being light-hearted or serious with the quality of her voice, Carusone said.

"Her speech is getting better with the constant therapy she's doing."

Giffords is "doing remarkably well," her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, said at a NASA press conference last month.

"She's improving every day," Kelly said. "She's starting to walk, talk more, more every day."

"She's starting to process some of the tragedy, that we all went through in January—she's going through that as we speak," he said.

"Despite that, she remains in a very good mood."

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1 comment on this story

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172 comments
May 18, 2011, 12:08 pm
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Will his defense attorneys disallow anti-psychotic and other medications so he can never stand trial?
We all have lost so much in the murderous slaughter of the innocents, the maiming of innocent others, and the devastating maiming and attempted murderous assassination of an innocent duly elected AZ State Representative. This is the reality caused by this mass-murderer’s walking, waking nighmarish inner dreamscape.

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