Accused Tucson shooter removed from court for outburst

Reuters News
|
Posted: May 25, 2011 5:29 PM
Accused Tucson shooter removed from court for outburst

By Tim Gaynor

TUCSON, Ariz (Reuters) - Tucson shooting rampage suspect Jared Loughner was hustled out of a federal courtroom in Arizona on Wednesday after an outburst during a hearing to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

Loughner, 22, is charged with opening fire at a political event outside a supermarket in January, killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns is to decide whether the 22-year-old college dropout, described by his own legal team as "gravely mentally ill," is capable of understanding the proceedings against him and assisting in his own defense.

Appearing unshaven in a beige prison jumpsuit, Loughner rocked back and forth in his chair as the hearing went on, then interrupted the proceedings by blurting out, "Thanks for the freak show" or "Thanks for the free jail" -- courtroom reporters were divided on what exactly he said.

"She died in front of me," he continued to yell, adding, "You're treasonous," or "You're cheating us," as he was dragged from the court.

The judge called a brief recess, saying, "My intention is to go forward," adding, "If Mr. Loughner can compose himself, he is entitled to be here."

Burns then asked federal marshals if Loughner had "calmed down" and said, "I want to talk to him and tell him, if he wants to stay here, he has to act like a gentleman."

The hearing comes after Loughner spent five weeks undergoing psychiatric evaluations at a federal prison hospital in Missouri.

Prosecutors had asked for the review in March, citing widely publicized accounts of erratic, paranoid behavior by Loughner in the months before the shooting spree, including homemade videos posted on YouTube in which Loughner talks about mistrust of the government and mind control.

Loughner is accused of opening fire with a semiautomatic pistol on Giffords and a crowd of bystanders attending a political gathering outside a Tucson supermarket in January.

Six people, including a federal judge, were killed, and 13 others were wounded, Giffords the most gravely among them. She is continuing to undergo rehabilitation for a gunshot wound to the head.

Loughner pleaded not guilty in March to 49 charges stemming from the rampage at the "Congress on Your Corner" event, including multiple counts of first-degree murder. Prosecutors had not decided whether to seek the death penalty.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor, Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)