Loughner has outburst in court; declared incompetent for trial

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by Associated Press and Jared Dillingham

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azfamily.com

Posted on May 25, 2011 at 12:07 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 25 at 6:04 PM

PHOENIX (AP) -- A federal judge has ruled that the suspect in the Arizona shooting rampage that wounded U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is mentally incompetent to stand trial, putting the criminal case on hold indefinitely.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns means 21-year-old Jared Lee Loughner will be sent to a federal facility for up to four months in a bid to restore his competency.

Wednesday's ruling comes after Loughner spent five weeks in March and April at a federal facility in Missouri, where he was examined by two court-appointed mental health professionals.

Loughner was removed from the court hearing after an outburst, and watched most of the proceeding on a TV screen in another room.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns had Jared Lee Loughner escorted from the courtroom after Loughner lowered his head and mumbled something loudly, his head inches from the table in front of him. Loughner's words were inaudible to many in the courtroom.

Loughner was later brought back into the courtroom, and the judged told him he had a right to watch the hearing. Burns asked Loughner if he wanted to view the proceeding from another room.

Loughner responded: "I want to watch the TV screen."

Forensic psychiatrists say Wednesday's ruling is not a free pass for Loughner.

"It doesn't mean he's going home to his mother's house.  He's going to a hospital for treatment," said Dr. Michael Bayless.

That treatment could include medicine and behavioral exercises, and according to psychiatrists, is usually successful.

"Statistically, 70 to 80% of the patients who go into the restoration process are declared competent to stand trial in six to twelve months," said Dr. Roland Segal.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting at a Tucson meet-and-greet event that injured Giffords and 12 others and killed six people.

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