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Jared Loughner Incompetent to Stand Trial

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 25, 2011 2:36 PM

Jared Loughner is incompetent and will not stand trial for now, a federal judge ruled at Wednesday's mental incapacity proceeding. Loughner was arrested in the fatal Tucson shootings that wounded congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six people.

Loughner had to be removed from the mental incapacity proceeding after an outburst. A reporter said he heard Loughner lower his head and say, "Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me," reports CNN.

After his removal from the courtroom, Loughner watched the rest of the proceeding on a TV screen in a nearby room.

Loughner had spent the last five weeks undergoing a mental health evaluation. Prosecutors had ordered the mental health evaluation after they saw YouTube videos of Loughner wearing a hood, garbage bags and burning an American flag, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Loughner will now be sent to a federal facility for up to four months, at the end of which he will be evaluated to see if he is now competent to stand trial, according to The Houston Chronicle.

Is Jared Loughner incompetent? District Judge Larry Burns has ruled he is. If after more treatment and evaluation he is still deemed incompetent, his stay at the federal facility can be extended. If he is deemed competent, the trial against him will resume.

Let's be clear: the court did not find Jared Loughner insane.

A determination of mental competency is not the same as a determination that a person is legally insane. If a person is determined to be legally insane, they cannot be convicted and found guilty of the crimes that they are accused of because of their mental defect. The methods to prove insanity vary between states.

If a person is mentally incompetent to stand trial, the accused is simply unable to understand the legal proceedings. There is no judgment on the guilt or innocence of the party, and the trial against them may proceed when they are deemed competent.

Of course, if Loughner is found to be competent to stand trial in the coming months, the defense might mount an insanity defense. Defendants that are found to be legally insane in many states will still be committed to a mental institution.

So while Jared Loughner is incompetent now, this by no means that he will not stand trial for the Tucson shootings at some point.

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