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Jared Loughner Mental Exam: Can He Stand Trial?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 23, 2011 10:10 AM

Is Jared Loughner insane?

That's up for discussion, but the District Court is going to involve doctors to find out.

Loughner will be transported to a federal prison in Springfield, Missouri at some point in the next month in order to undergo a mental evaluation. The health examiners' report will determine whether he can stand trial--not if he is responsible for his crimes.

Two mental evaluations must take place during Loughner's trial. One will focus on whether he was legally insane at the time he shot Gabrielle Giffords. But before the court can get to this question, it must first answer the following:

Is Jared Loughner insane such that he is not competent to stand trial?

Constitutionally, a criminal defendant can only stand trial if he is deemed to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings such that he can assist in his defense. When there is a question as to competency, as with Jared Loughner, a mental exam is the first order of business.

During the mental exam, Jared Loughner will be questioned about the events that occurred and his current status as an inmate. Psychiatrists will try to ascertain whether he is delusional, fully understands the situation, and if he is stable enough to testify at trial.

So what if the Jared Loughner mental exam deems Jared Loughner insane?

Usually when this occurs, the defendant is committed to a psychiatric facility until he or she is considered competent. At that point, he may stand trial.

No one is exactly sure of the extent of Loughner's mental illness--or if he even has one. It's completely possible that he's mentally competent, allowing him to stand trial. But if he isn't, rest assured that he will not be removed from government custody.

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