Loughner defense wants trial delayed a year
Prosecutors request psych exam of alleged shooter
Defense attorneys for Jared Lee Loughner want to push back his trial at least one year past the date suggested by the judge in the case.
Prosecutors responded by asking U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to order a psychological examination of Loughner, to determine his fitness for trial.
"There is evidence, which is in the public domain, suggesting the defendant may have mental issues," prosecutors wrote.
Loughner, 22, was indicted on 49 counts in the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson that left six dead and 13 wounded. The death penalty is a possibility in 14 of the counts, if prosecutors choose to pursue it.
A decision on whether to seek the death penalty will likely not be made for months.
Judy Clarke, in a motion filed Friday, wants to push back the trial to January 2013, citing the need to prepare mitigating evidence in the case of a potential death penalty trial.
Burns had suggested that the trial begin by Sept. 20 of this year.
Prosecutors submitted a schedule that fit Burns' proposed trial date, but Clarke moved to stretch out deadlines for discovery, detailing the thousands of pages of evidence that need review and detailed investigations the defense must perform.
"Lawyers always want more time: sometimes they need it, and sometimes they just think they need it. This case is in the former category," she wrote.
The U.S. Justice Department must file a notice with the court that it is seeking the death penalty. The prosecution's schedule would make July 22 the deadline for the federal Capital Case Review Committee to decide if the government will make Loughner's trial a capital case.
Clarke said that schedule is too rushed to provide Loughner with a proper defense.
"No lawyer or team of lawyers could be ready to defend Mr. Loughner by September 2011 – no matter how hard they work between now and then," Clarke said.
The time "required to gain an understanding of the depths of Mr. Loughner's mental afflictions and their impact on his functioning in the world" means that the defense wouldn't be prepared to offer motions on capital punishment issues until June 2012, she said.
Prosecutors responded Monday with a motion to have Loughner's psychological state evaluated, to determine his fitness for trial.
"The government is raising this issue now so that the issue of competency may be addressed at this time, to avoid any unnecessary delays in the proceedings," Assistant U.S. Attorney Beverly Anderson wrote in a motion.
Anderson asked the court to have Loughner placed in the custody of the U.S. Attorney General, to have him sent to a federal facility where his psychological state could be evaluated.
Loughner's apparent posts on MySpace and YouTube were cited by Anderson as "indicative of an individual who may have mental issues." (see sidebar)
Clarke told the court that a trial date of in 2013 would be "consistent with the average time between indictment and trial in federal capital cases over the past two decades."
The defense motion left open the possibility of an earlier trial if the prosecution does not seek the death penalty.
Clarke's motion also expressed "concern about various leaks of investigative information to the media."
Clarke also asked the court to deny a prosecution move to have Loughner provide handwriting samples, calling to government's motion a violation of the alleged shooter's Fifth Amendment rights.
Prosecutors maintain that a handwriting sample is physical evidence, not testimony. Loughner has refused to provide a sample, which prosecutors want to compare with documents reportedly found in his home.
Loughner is due in court Wednesday afternoon, to offer a plea on the 49 counts in the latest indictment handed down in the case.
Loughner is accused of the attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the murder of six people and the wounding of 12 others at a "Congress On Your Corner" meet and greet event on Jan. 8.
Killed were U.S. District Judge John Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a Giffords staffer, and bystanders Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and Dorwan Stoddard.
Giffords is undergoing treatment at a Houston rehabilitation center. The other victims were released from the hospital in January.
Autopsy reports on the six who were killed were released by the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office on Monday.