Why Loughner is not mentally competent to stand trial
May 26th, 2011
03:02 PM ET

Why Loughner is not mentally competent to stand trial

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that accused Arizona Safeway shooter, Jared Loughner, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, is not mentally competent to stand trial. What exactly does that mean?

In order to stand trial, generally it must be determined that the defendant is in touch with reality and has a rational understanding of basic concepts as they relate to the criminal process.

The judge stated Wednesday that Loughner exhibited an "irrational distrust of his lawyers" and "has delusions.” These behaviors indicate that he is not lucid and prohibit him from assisting in his own defense at trial.

Mental health experts say determining competency is based on several factors.

First, a one-on-one interview is conducted with the defendant, in which questions are asked about the person’s background, family and medical history, for example.

They also collect collateral evidence, which can include documents obtained during the investigation and conversations with people who had been in communication with the defendant.

In Loughner's case, many experts cite his YouTube rants  about philosophical and political issues, and reports of inappropriate behaviors by acquaintances.

“Each of these things, by themselves, might not mean much. But when considered together these were certainly red flags for me in thinking about mental illness,” says Patricia Zapf, a forensic psychologist with the John Jay College of Justice in New York. Zapf  is not involved in the Loughner trial, but says she was not surprised by the ruling.

Finally, psychological evaluations are conducted, which often include an IQ test, and the use of a forensic assessment instrument designed to test specifically for mental illness.

What happens next?

The U.S. attorney general will take custody of Loughner and he will be taken to a hospital for further evaluation.  The goal is to restore his competency enough to stand trial.

Schizophrenics have difficulty distinguishing reality from fiction, so psychotropic medications are often used to alter the process of the brains neurotransmitters and reduce symptoms, like feelings of agitation, hallucinations and delusions.

Loughner will be reevaluated again in a few months, after being treated in the federal facility.

soundoff (115 Responses)
  1. Wildone

    Like all mass murderers, he should be executed. When a domesticated dog turns violent and kills a human being it's put down and nobody says the poor dog needed therapy. He should be medicated by lethal injection.

    May 29, 2011 at 05:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dora

      What a horrible thing to say, to turn a human to an animal level. I hope you don't go to church or temple.
      I do believe that even if he is not fit to stand trial, he should spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital.

      May 29, 2011 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
    • eumir

      Fine Dora... you pay for his hospitalization and explain to the parents of that 9 y/o girl who was murdered why their daughter is no longer around.

      May 29, 2011 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
    • AthiestAvenger

      Dora, then I suggest you pay for it, because a lifetime of mental health is going to cost a million plus.. Much more expensive than a bullet.. Only Christians feel that he should be saved, and there is nothing wrong with comparing what we would do to a dog vs what we SHOULD do to him, we are all animals, us humans just have the ability to think, and in his case think about murder and commit it.. Why does he deserve better than his victims?

      May 29, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      The nazi party needs you.

      May 29, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      @eumir–In your desire for revenge you fail to comprehend what paranoid schizophrenia is and that this person is not mentally competent or able to understand what he has done. If you took your cues from more than just Dirty Harry films you would understand this.

      May 29, 2011 at 19:05 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Sorry, but this is a human being, not a dog.. Your analogy is way off base.. What he did was horrible, even evil, but the fact is the guy is totally nuts.. However, this does not make him a dog as you put it... Grow up . better yet, how about you grow some compassion !

      May 30, 2011 at 05:01 | Report abuse |
    • minetruly

      Sometimes, execution is a reasonable response when a person kills others. However, this person is regarded and exectued as a HUMAN, not an animal. It is wrong to treat a person as an animal instead of a human the moment he kills. Inflicting a wrong on a murderer does not make YOU right. It just puts more injustice in the world. This person deserves to be tried as a human being, and the decision on whether or not to kill him will be the decision on whether or not to kill a human, not the decision on whether or not to kill a dog.

      Frankly, it worries me that you can so easily view other humans on the same level as dogs. This is the trait that allows murders and serial killers to kill so easily. Most of us can NOT view humans as being the same as animals in any situation. It is the sick mind that is capable of this.

      June 19, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse |
  2. jimmie

    if this man is schizo or crazy, he would have used a wet noodle, a feather pillow or a bag of cotton candy to try and kill these people. my take, fast track to the hangman's noose.

    May 29, 2011 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cardog

      My response to this crazy situation is simple. Crazy or not, this man deserves one thing our laws require of any citizen, a trial, being found guilty and being executed. You must explain to me how we as citizens, explain the death of a nine year old little girl, because this idiot is acting crazy? Explain that to the parents, explain that to the husbands/wives or relatives of those people this idiot killed.
      So now we just add another murderer to the ranks of our prison system, pay for his keep and eventually have some do gooder doctor say that he is now ready to return to society, because of treatment???? God, what a country...

      May 29, 2011 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • Joel

      @cardog–you simply do not understand what schizophrenia is and what the victim of schizophrenia understands as reality. It's constant torment and he is not in possession of a rational mind. Why Americans are in such a rush to exact revenge and send people the chair says a hell of a lot about them and why people in other countries hold the opinion of us that they do.

      May 29, 2011 at 19:08 | Report abuse |
    • Steven

      Jimmie- where did you get your M.D. in psychiatry? Perhaps you should leave the diagnosis to the experts.

      May 30, 2011 at 00:54 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      And this is why you are not a judge or anyone who would make these decisions.. Your logic is no better than his.. Get some help before you pull the trigger ok !

      May 30, 2011 at 05:03 | Report abuse |
  3. dvdmc16

    think about it jar-head. the nuthouse has no law library, no jail house lawyers to help with appeals, and NO PAROLE. you sit! David Berkowitz' defense knew that and I guess John Hinckley's didn't. "not guilty by reason of insanity" is a verdict you'll never hear now in: Montana, Idaho, Kansas or Utah. thanks to Hinckley. More states will tighten the parameters of the mental defense after Loughner.

    May 29, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bob Bichen

    There will be those that will call the judge "bleeding heart" but you need to understand the context. If they forge ahead and convict him despite his apparent lack of competency then his conviction will be reversed on appeal. Better to send him for treatment and get him to the point of competency and then try him so the conviction will stick. Kind of like healing a prisoner so you can then execute them. Seems counterintuitive, but it is the way things work. Either that or he will be found so utterly deranged that he will be permanently committed.

    May 29, 2011 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. JULIE

    who does every one says this crazy man is insane 1.he loaded the gun 2.he shot the gun3 he knew what he was doing and could tell the difference between right and wrong. execute him put him up against a wall and shoot him stop wasting our tax money to put that disgusting man to death. once he found guilt that's it he is put down like the rabid dog he is

    May 29, 2011 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. JULIE

    appeal what about the victims here. they shoudl have no appeal period! what baout our rights!

    May 29, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joel

      You sound like more of a crazy than Loughner! How are your rights being violated? He's locked up and is never getting out no matter where they send him. If you have such an overwhelming desire to see people executed than perhaps you're the one who needs to be behind bars?

      May 29, 2011 at 19:13 | Report abuse |
  7. JULIE

    what about that little girl who will never marry and never have a family. what about the right to grow up and watch that child turn into a beautiful adult what about those rights, whose talking for the victims.


    May 29, 2011 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. dick delson

    He deserves to die. He's a creep.

    May 29, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. pmk1953

    Remove him from the gene pool before he breeds more schizos. Whether he's competent or not is not important. He's a prime candidate for retro-active birth control.

    May 29, 2011 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joel

      No, you're a prime candidate for retro-active birth control.

      May 29, 2011 at 21:56 | Report abuse |
    • minetruly

      I love how tragedies bring out the best of people, like willful ignorance, prejudice, and Social Darwinism.

      I'm going to go back to studying Evolution and pretend that people like you don't exist. No wonder Creationists are so scared of people who grasp the bare basics of genes.

      June 19, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
  10. Janet

    Most of the postings show a serious lack of understanding of what it is like to have a serious mental health illness Schizophrenia is a illness that affects the brain, it is not cause by a bad childhood situation or caused by anything a person does. Spend sometime on the internet looking what Schizophrenia is. Also most Schizophrenics with proper medication and support can live somewhat normal lives.
    That does not take away the suffering that this young man caused. But just think what if all of the people around him all his life, (family, friends, teachers) had education of what Schizophrenia symptoms were, he could of gotten medication, therapy and community support.
    Having a mental health issue is the last stigma in America. People cancer were once avoided for fear of catching it. With education people with AIDS/HIV now can shake people's hands without fear of being rejected. I hope that some day soon people with mental health problems will not hesitate getting help, not be labeled as "crazy".
    Also with the proper help he should of gotten he would of been on a list of people not to sell a gun to. We need better guns laws, any other developed country have laws to at least to bar selling guns to people with severe mental health issues.
    Then the 9 year old girl would still be alive today. We can not just kill "all of the crazy people" they have families and rights also. It is just a very sad situation all around.

    May 29, 2011 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Bob

    What that really means is that he played the not mentally competent card and they bought it!!!!!

    May 29, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joel

      If you had any clue about schizophrenia or mental illness you simpleton you would know there is no card to be played. he was exhibiting signs of schizophrenia long before he committed acts of violence or does your patheitic excuse for a brain think he did that as a ruse for his murders?

      May 29, 2011 at 23:59 | Report abuse |
    • minetruly

      Oh really? And what would a TRULY mentally incompetent person be like?

      June 19, 2011 at 21:29 | Report abuse |
  12. Derick W

    How many people did The Unabomber kill? Wasn't he diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia? He was spared the death sentence.The Kaczynski dude was a mathematical genius though...Loughner doesn't appear to possess the same level of cunning or sophistication at all. I bet Loughner gets life.

    May 29, 2011 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dana

    CNN, let's have real coverage of what happens to people who develop schizophrenia but don't kill anyone. Let's talk about the lack of resources and assistance that is available. Let's talk about how hard it is to get someone into treatment who is delusional, even if treatment is available.

    If you're just going to print trial transcripts, that isn't journalism. Explore the real issue.

    May 29, 2011 at 23:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Clam Forbes

    ii would send him overseas to disarm roadside bombs in Iraq and in Afghanistan with extremely abbreviated training.

    May 30, 2011 at 06:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Clam Forbes

    it's the only way to know for sure...

    May 30, 2011 at 06:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Venice Moldan

    You completed several good points there. I did a search on the subject and found mainly people will go along with with your blog.


    March 4, 2021 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.