Giffords shooter unfit to stand trial

A US judge ruled Wednesday that Jared Loughner was mentally unfit to stand trial over charges he tried to assassinate a US congresswoman and killed six other people in Arizona, US media reported.

Jared Loughner had to be removed from court in Tucson after making an outburst at a hearing to decide if he was competent to stand trial over the attack, in which lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head in January.

“Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me,” he told the judge in comments quoted by the Arizona Star newspaper, which said it was unclear what he was referring to.

Judge Larry A. Burns said doctors found that Loughner was schizophrenic and has an irrational distrust of lawyers, making him unable to help in his own defence or understand the court proceedings, the newspaper reported online.

He will be kept in hospital for up to four months while doctors determine if he can be treated to make him competent to stand trial, it said. Loughner believes he cannot have a fair trial because of a conspiracy, doctors said.

After his outburst, the judge asked 22-year-old Loughner if he wanted to stay in the courtroom or watch proceedings on television. The suspect said he wanted to watch it on TV.

Loughner, 22, was arrested after the shooting at a public meeting Ms Giffords held in Tucson on January 8, which triggered a wave of soul-searching over America’s starkly divisive political culture.

He pleaded not guilty in March to all charges related to the attack, which also killed a US federal judge and a nine-year-old girl. He was subsequently sent for mental tests to determine if he was fit for trial.

If he does go to trial and is convicted, Loughner could face the death penalty over the shootings, local US Attorney Dennis Burke has said, while promising “a deliberate and thorough process … to see that justice is done.”

Ms Giffords is recovering from a bullet wound to the brain at a Houston rehabilitation center, and recently travelled to Florida to watch her astronaut husband Mark Kelly, 46, lift off in the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

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