Now Reading
Loughner lawyers' sanity concerns revealed in motions

From the archive: This story is more than 10 years old.

Jan. 8 shootings

Loughner lawyers' sanity concerns revealed in motions

  • Loughner
    Pima County Sheriff's Dep'tLoughner

Defense attorneys for Jared Lee Loughner, the accused Jan. 8 shooter, again asked a court to order that they be notified if he is given psychotropic drugs.

The court document, and another motion by the defense filed Monday, show that Loughner's legal team has serious concerns about his mental state.

In a motion filed Thursday, lead defense lawyer Judy Clarke asked U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to tell the government to keep Loughner's legal team informed of any intentions to give him anti-psychotic medication.

Loughner was found incompetent to stand trial las month, and sent to a federal facilty in Missouri, where doctors will attempt to restore his ability to understand the charges against him and participate in his own defense.

Neither defense lawyers nor prosecutors questioned the reports by government doctors that led Burns to declare Loughner incompetent.

In Thursday's motion, Clarke amplified a request to be kept informed of Loughner's treatment. Burns denied a one-sentence motion on the same topic June 2, telling Clarke to explain her reasoning.

"Mr. Loughner is unable to communicate rationally with counsel not only about his case, but also about information provided to him by FMC Springfield staff," she wrote.

In Monday's filing, Clarke sought to delay the discovery process in the case until Loughner is declared competent.

Burn's "findings as announced in open court on May 25 make clear that defense counsel cannot have rational or meaningful communication with Mr. Loughner concerning the charges," Clarke wrote.

In the initial court hearings in the case, Clarke repeatedly expressed concerns that government plans for the competency exam would harm her efforts to build a trusting relationship with Loughner.

At the March 9 arraignment, she sat next to her client, sometimes placing her hand on his back and shoulder in an encouraging manner and whispering to him.

At last month's competency hearing, Clarke and Loughner sat at different ends of the defense table, with other attorneys in between them.

Doctors at the Springfield prison hospital are expected to treat what a government psychiatrist and psychologist diagnosed as schizophrenia in an attempt to restore Loughner's ability to understand the charges against him and assist in his defense.

Loughner suffers from hallucinations, paranoid delusions and irrational thoughts, the doctors said.

Loughner can receive medication, counseling and other treatments as doctors try to restore his competency.

"We believe he can be restored to competency with proper medication," said Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, after last month's hearing.

If Loughner does not cooperate with treatment, the court could order that he be given medication by force.

A hearing was scheduled for Sept. 10 to review progress in restoring him to competency, with a report to be filed with the court Aug. 31. There is a chance the hearing may not be held if Loughner is found to still be incompetent.

The incompetency finding doesn't mean that Loughner won't face trial. If he is still unable to be tried after four months, he could be held, undergoing treatment, for as long as the potential jail terms he faces: life.

Most defendants are restored to competency after receiving treatment.

49 federal charges

Loughner is accused of killing six and shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt.

Among those killed were a nine-year-old girl and Arizona's presiding federal judge.

He also is charged with wounding 12 others at the "Congress On Your Corner" meet and greet with constituents at a Northwest Side grocery store on the morning of Jan. 8.

In March, Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in the 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 likely will face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said, but only after the federal case is resolved.

— 30 —

Best in Internet Exploder