Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jared Loughner and the Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords



Jared Lee Loughner
Jared Lee Loughner
Though the early media discussion centered on whether or not Loughner was a right-wing extremist or had been influenced by political rhetoric, by the end of the day people were discussing whether or not Loughner's mental health was an issue. Internet postings seemed to indicate that perhaps he had some psychiatric problems, and the attention shifted from blaming politicians to looking at whether or not there were enough clues in Loughner's daily behavior to have tipped off authorities.

Loughner's troubled tenure as a student was enough for his community college to enact a program aimed at disruptive students. Around the time of Loughner expulsion in September, The New York Times reported, Pima Community College introduced a Student Behavior Assessment Committee. "The team meets as needed to respond to students who have acted violently or threatened violence, or who may pose a threat to themselves or others."

Perhaps the best thing to come out of Loughner's high-profile crime was a national discussion of mental health issues, with an a renewed focus on recognizing troubled people like Loughner before they go too far.

While the media circus around Loughner continued, Giffords was on the mend. By the end of January, Giffords had made tremendous progress in her recovery. She had been transferred out of the hospital to a rehabilitation center in Houston, Texas. Her condition had been upgraded to good after weeks in critical, and she had been responsive to simple questions and able to hold up her hands. Still, it would be months before she could make what was hoped to be a full recovery. She faced months of occupational and speech therapy. Since she was expected to recover, though, her seat in Congress remained secure.

With the crime and its details so widely publicized, getting an unprejudiced jury for Loughner in Tucson was thought possibly to be a challenge, given that both a U.S. Representative and a federal judge had been shot and killed. After federal trial judges in Arizona recused themselves from the case, there was talk of moving the case to San Diego, Calif., a neighboring judicial district, where federal judge Larry Burns would preside over the case. This remained uncertain, though, as prosecutors vowed to keep the case in Arizona.

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski (Mugshot)
Unabomber Ted Kaczynski
Loughner entered a not guilty plea on January 24 represented by Judy Clarke, a lawyer well known for her defense of unpopular defendants in highly charged cases, including Ted Kaczynski — the Unabomber, and Susan Smith, who killed her children by drowning them in a car.

Those looking for a quick ending will be disappointed as it might take more than a year to bring the case to trial; reports indicate that the defense may contest whether Loughner was competent to stand trial — and then, perhaps, court watchers speculated — whether or not an insanity defense could be mounted. Even with a trial and with the thousands of words written analyzing and attempting to understand why someone would do something so savage, it may never become clear what truly motivated Jared Loughner.

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