Tucson, AZ—The job of defending 22-year-old Jared Loughner will most certainly center around the issue of his competency or lack thereof. Is he competent to stand trial and assist in his defense? There are many serious red flags that say he may not be standing trial anytime soon.
There seems to be little doubt that Loughner is the shooter and planned his activities. The defense has no viable direction to go other than seeking refuge under the insanity defense. That defense is more complicated and difficult than ever because lawmakers have done everything possible to foreclose this possibility.
Tucson Lawyer Bob Hirsh did a masterful job of gaining freedom for a man who murdered his wife nearly 30 years ago. In 1982 Restaurateur Steven Steinberg murdered his wife in their Scottsdale home. The defense was that Steinberg’s Jewish wife was a shrew and incessantly nagged him, driving him insane until he stabbed her to death. Steinberg was acquitted and that sent angry shock-waves across the nation. Laws were changed to preclude another such acquittal.
The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley was another case that led to tightening of the insanity defense under federal law. The public seems to reject any excuse for heinous criminal acts.
None the less, the defense exists and the job of a defense investigator would be to find every scintilla of evidence of abhorrent conduct. Head injuries, medical examinations, witnesses, relatives, friends, enemies, teachers, cops and anyone at all that knows anything must be examined or intensively interviewed.
The investigator needs to make sure that the mental health experts have the whole picture of Jared Lougner. The competency hearing for this kind of case will take longer than most trials. If Loughner is tried then the issue of competency will be hashed out for a second time.
This case seems destined for a plea agreement but only after two or three years of legal wrangling. If no plea agreement can be reached this case will undoubtedly be the subject of a Supreme Court review.
Trial watchers will be learning about the famous McNaughton Rule that is the legal standard for insanity in the United States.
You can fully expect the defense to show every failure of government to take steps to deal with this guy’s mental illness. Before this is over you can expect major embarrassment by numerous agencies that dropped the ball. There will be no questions left behind on his instability. This tortured soul has a legitimate insanity defense that will undoubtedly preclude a death sentence. Loughner may even be confined to a mental institution rather than a prison.