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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Loughner pleads guilty to murder

TUCSON, Ariz. — Jared Lee Loughner agreed Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison, accepting that he went on a deadly shooting rampage at an Arizona political gathering and sparing the victims a lengthy, possibly traumatic death-penalty trial.

His plea came soon after a federal judge found that months of psychiatric treatment for schizophrenia made Loughner able to understand charges that he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including his intended target, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Read the rest here.

Frankly I am disturbed by this. If he needed to be heavily medicated just so he could understand what was happening in court, how could he possibly be responsible for killing six people?

6 comments:

Anaxagoras said...

It said he was "treated" for months, but that doesn't mean it was the medication that made him understand. If he really couldn't understand before, he likely spent months in "competency to proceed" treatment/training (in addition to talk therapy + meds) which involves education in the court procedures and periodic assessments by a forensic psychologist to assess his competency. I used to run groups for ITP males at South Florida State Hospital.

CJ said...

Not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) is separate from competency to stand trial. You can be crazy when you commit the act, but able to understand the court proceedings and participate in your defense later. Conversely, you can be perfectly sane when you commit the crime and later "decompensate" to the point that you aren't fit to stand trial.

Phil said...

His "responsibility" is separate from the question of whether he should be removed from society. If he's a threat to others, even if it's the result of his own insanity, I don't see how he can be freed, if that's what you're arguing, John.

It's also not clear that forcible medication is worse for Loughner than being left to perpetually living in violent delusion.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Phil
I'm definitely not arguing for his release. He is clearly very dangerous. Traditionally the criminally insane were confined to high security mental hospitals until a panel of doctors determined that they were either cured or close enough that they could be safely released. I doubt that would ever occur in Loughner's case. But if he was/is mad, and I think there is strong evidence to suggest such, then he belongs in a hospital not prison. This country has an appalling track record when it comes to mental health treatment in its prisons.

Phil said...

If that can be done in a secure way, I agree with you.

My concern with the clinically insane route, however, is that the calls to release him are inevitably going to arise, just as they do with John Hinckley. As I understand it, there are serious questions about Hinckley's mental state, yet he's granted supervised (by his parents) releases from time to time.

Anaxagoras said...

"Traditionally the criminally insane were confined to high security mental hospitals until a panel of doctors determined that they were either cured or close enough that they could be safely released. I doubt that would ever occur in Loughner's case."

That won't happen to him because it is not allowed (see "deinstitutionalisation" or Kennedy's "Community Mental Health Act"). Nowadays they just get bounced around from one setting to another or from a homelessness to a state hospital for an extended stay followed by release to an ALF which they wander away from, become homeless again, then hospitalized for a few more years, etc. It usually ends when they die or do something dangerous enough to end up in jail.