Jared Loughner making 'progress' toward standing trial, judge says

LoughnerTucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner has made “measurable progress” toward recovering mental competency to stand trial in the deadly rampage, a federal judge said Monday in ordering another four-month commitment at a prison mental hospital.

U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns said there was “reason for optimism” that Loughner could be brought to trial in the foreseeable future on the 49 felony counts stemming from the Jan. 8, 2011, shootings that left six people dead and 13 wounded, including former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Burns cited a psychiatrist’s report from the mental hospital in Missouri where Loughner has been forcibly treated with anti-psychotic drugs for almost a year. The report says Loughner, 23, has become more cooperative with prison and hospital staff and has been taking part in group therapy sessions.

The judge referred to Loughner’s unruly and bizarre behavior at earlier court appearances before him in Tucson in observing that “there was no way in my judgment then that he could have meaningfully participated in any kind of group therapy.”

Attorneys for the government asked Burns to give them access to the prison psychiatrist’s notes from discussions with Loughner. Burns said he was prepared to grant the request after reviewing the reports to delete any information that might be subject to Loughner’s attorney-client privilege.

Excerpts of the mental health reports read by the judge painted a picture of a much-improved defendant, who was deemed incompetent to stand trial  in May.

Loughner has undergone two four-month commitments for treatment, during which his attorneys have waged a legal battle to spare him from being medicated against his will with drugs they say could harm or kill him.

Loughner could face the death penalty if convicted. 

Burns indicated that the new four-month commitment would possibly be the last.

While hailing the progress made over the last four months, Burns said the prison doctors believe “he is not there yet” in terms of being capable of assisting in his own defense. The judge said the court might have to "try something else" if Loughner isn't ready for trial by the June 7 end of his latest commitment.

Neither Loughner’s lead attorney, Judy Clarke, nor Assistant U.S. Atty. Wallace Kleindienst, appearing for the government via videoconference from Tucson, made new arguments to Burns for or against his stated inclination to give the government four more months to work on Loughner’s mental capacity.

-- Carol J. Williams in San Diego


Does M.I.A. owe an apology?

Jared Loughner faces competency hearing

Super Bowl ad featuring Asian woman stirs controversy 

Photo: Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner in January 2011. Credit: Pima County Sheriff's Department 

Jared Loughner faces court hearing over forced drugging

A federal judge is today scheduled to consider whether to commit Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner to an additional four months of forced treatment for schizophrenia in a bid to restore his mental competency to stand trial

A federal judge is today scheduled to consider whether to commit Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner to an additional four months of forced treatment for schizophrenia in a bid to restore his mental competency to stand trial.

Loughner's attorneys have opposed the involuntary medication regimen ordered by U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns and were expected to reiterate their arguments during today's hearing in San Diego. They argue that the government doesn't have the right to force what they say are dangerous anti-psychotic drugs on a pre-trial detainee who hasn't been convicted of any crime.

Burns indicated last week, however, that he was inclined to authorize a third period of commitment as doctors treating the 23-year-old suspect at a prison hospital in Missouri report that he has made substantial progress toward being fit to face trial on 49 felony counts that could lead to a death penalty.

Loughner is accused of carrying out the Jan. 8, 2011, rampage outside a Tucson supermarket that killed six and injured 13 others, including Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The Democrat left her House seat last month to devote herself to her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head.

Loughner was declared incompetent to stand trial in May, following an initial evaluation term at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo.

-- Carol J. Williams


Super Bowl 2012 ads: Yawn

Super Bowl 2012: Will M.I.A. finger draw FCC fine?

Super Bowl 2012: Madonna shines, M.I.A. shocks, Birmingham blocks

Photo: Jared Lee Loughner on Feb. 22, 2011. Credit: U.S. Marshals Service / Associated Press 

Gabrielle Giffords: Poignant meetings mark final days in office

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords greets Arizona rancher Gary ThrasherA day after announcing her intention to resign from Congress, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Monday completed the "Congress on Your Corner" event that was cut short more than a year ago when a gunman opened fire on her and her constituents in a Tucson parking lot. She and a dozen others were injured in the attack; six people were killed.

The congresswoman, who was shot in the head and has been struggling to recuperate, announced in a video posted online Sunday that she planned to resign this week to focus on her recovery, making Monday's gathering all the more poignant.

Among those who met with Giffords was Pat Maisch, who wrestled a gun magazine from the shooter and was hailed as a hero.

"I thanked her for her service, wished her well, and she just looked beautiful," Maisch told the Arizona Star.

Maisch, who was not injured in the shooting, said she was touched that Giffords returned to finish the meeting at the Safeway store, and was sad to see her leave public office.

"I've always said I would love for her to continue to be my congresswoman, but I want her to do what's best for her," Maisch said. "She's got to take care of herself."

On Monday, Gifford’s Facebook and Twitter feeds showed images of her meeting with survivors and others in her hometown of Tucson, the heart of her 8th Congressional District.

Giffords appeared holding the hand of Suzi Hileman, who brought 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green to meet the congresswoman outside the supermarket that fateful day. Christina was among those slain in the shooting. Hileman was shot three times.

In another picture, Giffords is shown embracing her former intern, Daniel Hernandez, who helped save her life by stanching her bleeding until paramedics arrived.

Giffords smiled and shook hands during the event, once again wearing the glasses she has sported during her recovery (but which she did not wear in the video released Sunday).

As reported in a tweet, Arizona rancher Gary Thrasher said after meeting with Giffords on Monday: "She had true grit then & she has true grit now."

Giffords has said she plans to travel to Washington to attend President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday.

There, Giffords plans to sit between Reps. Jeff Flake, a Republican, and Raul Grijalva, a Democrat, according to a statement released by her office to The Times on Monday.

At last year’s State of the Union speech, held shortly after Giffords was shot and wounded, Flake and Grijalva flanked an empty seat reserved for her.

Giffords has invited Brian Kolfage to attend as her guest. Kolfage is a triple amputee who was injured during a mortar attack in Iraq in 2004 and serves on the congresswoman’s Veterans Advisory Council.

Obama has also invited Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, to attend the address, at which he will sit with the first lady, according to Monday's statement.

Jared Lee Loughner was later charged in connection with the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting outside the Safeway. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and remains in federal custody as officials attempt to restore his competency to stand trial.


Supreme Court: Police need warrant to use GPS tracking on cars

Whopper Highway? Virginia considers selling road-naming rights

Gabrielle Giffords resignation: Questions were growing in Arizona

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords greets Arizona rancher Gary Thrasher during a "Congress on Your Corner" constituent event in Tucson on Monday. Credit: Twitter

Gabrielle Giffords resignation: Questions were growing in Arizona

Gabrielle Giffords announced this weekend that she was stepping down from her post to concentrate on her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head. But the congresswoman was also facing growing criticism that she was no longer serving the needs of her voters.

The political landscape in the wake of Giffords' January 2011 shooting was a sensitive one. After all, Giffords, 41, nearly died when a gunman opened fire while she greeted constituents outside a Tucson supermarket. In all, six people were killed, and 13 were wounded.

When Anthony Prowell, a special ed teacher, began collecting signatures to run for Giffords’ seat as a longshot Green Party candidate, he was verbally attacked as a "vulture" and a "low-life" even as it was becoming increasingly clear that there was little chance Giffords would return to serve in her full capacity anytime soon.

PHOTOS: Tucson shooting: One year later

When Giffords spoke to ABC's Diane Sawyer in November in an exclusive interview, she struggled to find the right words and spoke in short, halting sentences. Even though the interview represented an almost miraculous recovery, it also underscored how much further Giffords needed to go before being able to serve her constituents as she did before the shooting.

Some, though, say that the Democratic Party may have been behind the year-long delay in a decision about who would run Giffords' district.

“I do believe there’s a political strategy in play here by the Democrats to exploit if they can as long as possible the situation,” Arizona State Sen. Frank Antenori told the Daily Caller last week, “to keep Republicans from actively beginning to campaign.”

The online comments on the article hint at increasing voter skepticism from some corners:

"I do hope she gets better, but that she has even remained in the seat is simply unbelievable," said one comment.

"We all hope she recovers to the extent that she can but, unfortunately, it's not going to be to a level needed to represent a Congressional district.  She simply cannot endure a campaign or effectively tend to the constituency.  Currently a 'staff' is running wild, in her name, doing who know what. But the votes ... we are not represented and that's illegal," said another.

Antenori, a Republican, is widely expected to run for Giffords seat, although he said that out of respect for Giffords he will not make an announcement until after she leaves office. That is expected to take place this week, after she attends President Obama's State of the Union address.

Giffords' resignation is expected to kick off a fierce battle for her 8th Congressional district seat. The district is a mix of conservatives, liberals and independents but currently leans Republican. That could change later this year, with redistricting expected to sway the district toward the Democrats.

The special election expected to be held to replace Giffords, however, will be held under the current district lines, potentially giving an edge to Republicans.


22 show horses killed in New Jersey fire

'Headless body in topless bar' killer wants out of prison

Joe Paterno dies: Sex abuse scandal fires emotional reaction

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Gabrielle Giffords appears at vigil, leads Pledge of Allegiance

Gabrielle Giffords leads crowd in Pledge of Allegiance.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) attended a vigil Sunday night to honor those killed and wounded -- herself included -- in the Tucson shooting a year ago.

Giffords was nearly killed in the attack, and her public appearances have been rare since then. But wearing a red shawl and holding the hand of her husband, former astronaut Mark E. Kelly, she ventured on stage at the University of Arizona. There, she led the crowd of about 1,000 in the Pledge of Allegiance, giving extra emphasis to the conclusion, “with liberty and justice for all.”

The crowd began cheering as soon as Giffords was seen coming from backstage and continued as she walked up the stairs. Giffords spoke the words of the pledge with Ron Barber, the three-term congresswoman’s district director, who was among those wounded in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting.

Barber, who was shot twice and seriously wounded, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

Giffords has been undergoing physical and speech rehabilitation in Houston, and has kept largely out of the public eye. But she has been seen walking, and she went to Washington last year to cast a key vote. She also gave ABC’s Diane Sawyer an interview in May.

Many people have raised questions about the long-term effects of her injury -- she was shot in the head -- and about her political plans. She has several months before she must announce whether she will seek a fourth term.

The rampage killed six people and left 13, including Giffords, wounded. A gunman opened fire in a supermarket parking lot as Giffords was on hand to meet constituents.

The remembrance at the University of Arizona was the final event in a weekend of memorials. Sunday’s ceremonies began with the ringing of bells at 10:11 a.m., when the shooting took place.

The suspected gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, is in custody.


Bells and tears mark year since Giffords shooting

Shooting survivor, his savior still coping a year later

Tucson shooting anniversary: Obama praises Gabrielle Giffords

-- Michael Muskal

Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords leads the Pledge of Allegiance during a vigil Sunday night at the University of Arizona. Credit: Jonathan Gibby / Getty Images

Tucson shooting: Woman who grabbed ammo from gunman remembers

Pat Maisch, who grabbed gun magazine from Tucson shooter.For Tucson residents, Sunday was a time to remember, but it was also a time to reassert the unity that followed the tragedy of a year ago, when a gunman opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, killing six people and wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.

“We refuse to let this tragic day define us,” said Patricia Maisch at one of the many memorials marking two days of commemoration in the city. On the day of the attack, Maisch grabbed a gun magazine from the gunman after he was tackled by others.

As part of a tribute to the victims, she spoke not only of the men who trapped the gunman but also of Tucson residents who comforted the dying, tried to save the wounded and sought to help one another that dark day and in the following year of pain. On the day of the shooting, Tucson became one family, she told a crowd in a program titled “Reflections: Honoring the Lives of the Jan. 8 Shooting Victims.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Maisch said at Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus. “Your presence here reaffirms the incredible character of our community.”

“Together we are a priceless resource,” she said later.

Giffords, who suffered a critical head injury in the shooting, has spent the last year struggling to recover. She and her husband, former astronaut Mark E. Kelly, were scheduled to attend a later vigil, the main event in a weekend of remembrance.

At the program honoring the victims, it was Giffords’ political career that was invoked by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a Tucson native and son of a prominent political family.

“We don’t hear our elected officials speaking words that bring us together,” said Udall, adding that Giffords’ bipartisan spirit is needed more than ever in Washington. If words become weapons, he said, “how can we find common ground for the good of our country?” 


Bells and tears mark year since Giffords shooting

Shooting survivor, his savior still coping a year later

Tucson shooting anniversary: Obama praises Gabrielle Giffords

-- Michael Muskal

Photo: Patricia Maisch, right, who helped subdue the Tucson shooter, is introduced by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona during a memorial ceremony Sunday in Tucson. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press


Tucson shooting anniversary: Obama praises Gabrielle Giffords


President Obama, who led the nation in mourning after the attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others a year ago in Tucson, has called the congresswoman to praise her as an inspiration, the White House announced Sunday.

Obama’s call came as Tucson and the nation commemorated the events of Jan. 8, 2011, when a lone gunman opened fire on Giffords, who was holding a meet-and-greet event in a parking lot at a Tucson shopping center. Six people were killed and 13 others, including the Giffords, were injured in the attack.

The White House said Obama called Giffords on Sunday to say that he and First Lady Michelle Obama keep her, “the families of the fallen, and the whole Tucson community in their daily thoughts and prayers and, along with the entire nation, continue to join her in mourning those lost.”

Obama also said he was amazed by the “courage and determination” Giffords “has shown along her incredible road to recovery,” and called her “an inspiration to his family and Americans across the country.”

Giffords, 41, who was shot in the head during the attack, has spent much of the last year in Houston undergoing physical and speech therapy.

Giffords has regained the ability to walk and talk and has even appeared in Congress to cast a vote. She gave a televised interview to ABC's Diane Sawyer in May.

Still, it remains unclear what the long-term effects of the gunshot to her brain will be. Giffords is in her third term in Congress and has several months before she has to formally declare whether she will seek a fourth term.

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, were expected to join thousands at an evening candlelight vigil at the University of Arizona. Kelly was expected to speak.

Jared Lee Loughner, 23, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in connection with the shooting. He is being medicated at a Missouri prison facility after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.


Gabrielle Giffords visits trail head named after slain aide

Tucson shooting survivor, his savior still coping a year later

Bells and tears mark one year since Gabrielle Giffords shooting

-- Michael Muskal

Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, husband Mark Kelly and Nancy Barber, the wife of Giffords' district director, Ron Barber, visit the Davidson Canyon Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Trailhead  overlooking Tucson on Saturday. Zimmerman was one of six people killed in the attack that left Giffords gravely injured. Credit: Cheryl Evans / Arizona Republic


Bells and tears mark one year since Gabrielle Giffords shooting

Gabrielle giffords safeway
At 10:11 a.m. Sunday, the mourners rang bells.

The tinkling was high-pitched, like children’s laughter, and stretched on for several minutes. Bystanders trembled and hugged. A few shook with tears.

The simple, powerful gesture outside a Safeway grocery store marked one year, to the minute, when a gunman opened fire here at a meet-and-greet for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six people were killed and 13 wounded, including the congresswoman, who was shot in the head.

Photos: Tucson shooting: One year later

Thus began a day of commemorative events in this sprawling southern Arizona city, which residents like to think of as a “big small town.” Later in the day, mourners will attend a gathering to honor the dead, who included a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. A vigil too is planned, with Giffords scheduled to appear.

On Saturday, Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, returned for the first time to the Safeway, which anchors the upscale shopping center La Toscana Village on the city’s northwest side. Kelly tweeted a photo of Giffords, in a dark jacket, jeans and sneakers, standing outside the store and pointing.

“Gabby remembering the parking spot she chose from Jan. 8,” Kelly wrote.

Shortly after the shootings, a collection of flowers and candles sprang up outside the grocery store. Retired teacher Kati Boehm lives nearby, and each time she went shopping after the killings, she’d buy a single flower and add it to the pile. It seemed like the least she could do.

Others felt the same. Across the street from the plaza, in a patch of dirt, someone set up six white wooden crosses, each decorated with an artificial bouquet. The names of the dead were printed in black: Dorwan Stoddard. John Roll. Gabriel Zimmerman. Phyllis Schneck. Christina-Taylor Green. Dorothy Morris.

“I think people want to be connected to one another and sometimes it takes tragedy to do that,” Boehm, 65, told The Times.

Sunday morning, Boehm and her boyfriend, Andrew Culver, 53, wanted to join what was billed as a community-wide bell-ringing. They didn’t have bells, so they grabbed wind chimes from a tree outside their home.

When they arrived at the Safeway, where the makeshift memorial had been cleared out long ago, they were joined by several dozen residents and a scrum of journalists. On this brisk, blue-skied morning, they gathered around a permanent memorial: a boulder, marked by a plaque honoring the "Tucson Tragedy." It's encircled by six smaller rocks, one for each victim.

People placed bouquets of roses nearby. They lit Virgin of Guadalupe candles. The adults clutched Starbucks coffee cups; the children, stuffed animals.

Someone said: “It’s 10:11.”

Boehm and Culver tinkled their wind chimes. Some people rang single bells, like Salvation Army greeters, while others shook strands with multiple bells. One woman made due with rattling her keys.

The chiming stretched to 10:12, 10:13, 10:14, longer. Even when Boehm and Culver walked away from the crowd, their wind chimes kept clinking.


Photos: Tucson shooting: One year later

Tucson shooting survivor, his savior still coping a year later

Gabrielle Giffords visits a trail head named after her slain aide

-- Ashley Powers in Tucson


Photo: A shopper passes by a memorial at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., a week after the mass shooting in January 2011 that left six dead and wounded 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Tucson to mark one year since Gabrielle Giffords was shot

Tucson shootings anniversary
Sunday will mark one year since a gunman opened fire outside a Tucson grocery store, killing six people and wounding 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head.

Since then, the Democratic congresswoman has undergone intense physical therapy. It’s unclear whether she will run for reelection. When asked about the possibility during a recent interview, Giffords, sometimes straining to find the words, said yes -– but only if she gets better.

The families of the dead -– Judge John Roll, Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, Dorwan Stoddard, Phyllis Schneck, Dorothy Morris and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green -– continued to piece their lives back together, as did the wounded members of Giffords’ staff.

"I can't hate anybody and I can't blame anybody and I can't be angry with anybody,” Dorwan Stoddard’s wife, Mavy, told the Associated Press. "Who am I going to be angry at? God? No. The shooter? Why?"

The suspected gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the rampage. He is undergoing treatment in a federal prison hospital, which prosecutors hope will restore his competency and allow him to stand trial.

In September, Loughner’s primary psychologist testified that, after several months of medication, he now "understands he's murdered people" and has stopped insisting that Giffords was among those killed.

Tucson plans to commemorate the shootings with events including a community-wide bell-ringing at 10:11 a.m., when the shooting began, and a service to honor the dead. Speakers include two friends of Christina-Taylor's.

At 6:30 local time, a vigil will be led by Ron Barber, Giffords’ district director, who was shot in the leg and cheek. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, are scheduled to attend.


Texas police in 911 call tell student, 'Put the gun down!'

Teen mistakenly deported to Colombia had fake name, fake life

Arizona to withhold funding for Mexican American studies program

--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas


Photo: A makeshift memorial for those killed and wounded during an attack on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) sprang up last year at University Medical Center in Tucson. Credit: David Becker/Getty Images

Watching Gabrielle Giffords -- and awaiting word -- at the Shanty tavern


At the Shanty, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is known simply as Gabby.

The Irish tavern, on Tucson’s historic Fourth Avenue, had been a hangout for Giffords. The Arizona congresswoman would often come by to unwind with friends and chat with fellow Tucsonans.

So it seemed only right that many friends and supporters gathered at the pub Monday evening to again hear her voice.

About 60 people watched Giffords’ first interview since she was shot in the head in January while meeting with constituents in Tucson. Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, were interviewed by ABC News' Diane Sawyer.

“Gabby is not only a friend, but absolutely the consummate politician that we like to see,” said owner Bill Nugent. “Everyone was excited to see the progress.”

The bar is a popular hangout for city politicians and bureaucrats as well as college students and regular Joes, Nugent said. Giffords would visit to “get her ear to the ground,” he said, but she would never put on an act in front of possible voters.

“We really just know Gabby as Gabby,” Nugent said.

He added: “In a state that has such curious politicians, it’s refreshing.”

On Monday night, there were tears and laughs from the people watching Giffords being interviewed. But, over pizza and beer, one question was on everyone's mind, Nugent said.

“We’re hoping to hear whether or not she was committed to running again,” he said. “I think she will.”

At one point in the ABC News interview, Sawyer asked Giffords about that -- and the congresswoman struggled to find the right words.

“No. Better,” she said at first. Her husband interjected, saying, “She wants to get better.”

So Giffords would run again if she gets better? Sawyer asked. “Yes, yes, yes,” Giffords said.

Were Giffords to seek a fourth term, the filing deadline is in May.

Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a friend of the congresswoman, said in an interview that she expects Giffords to run again. “If it's up to Gabby and her will power and her spirit, you bet,” she said. “That’s Gabby; she’s tough as nails.”

Giffords’ offices in Washington and Arizona carried on with business as usual the day after the Sawyer interview, continuing to accept a steady stream of supportive messages, said Mark Kimble, her senior press officer.

“Last night, the rest of the world had an opportunity to see what those of us who work for her have already seen,” Kimble said. “We’re all inspired by her, continue to be inspired by her and are very anxious to have her back in Washington.”

But Kimble says he and the rest of Giffords’ staff in both Washington and Arizona are far from twiddling their thumbs until then. Media coverage of Giffords has led to more requests from her constituents -- a 25% increase since January.

At any given time, staff members are working on about 1,000 cases, most of which involve foreclosures and active-duty soldiers’ healthcare, he said. Staff members have worked on more than 2,500 cases this year, about four times the average constituent caseload for Congress members’ offices.


In hospital visit, Obama made promise to Gabby Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords in her words: 'I want to get back to work'

Before shooting, Gabby Giffords eyed higher office, motherhood

-- Stephen Ceasar in Los Angeles and Alexa Vaughn in Washington

Photo: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly are interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC's 20/20. Credit: Ida Mae Astute/AP Photo/ABC


Recommended on Facebook

Your Hosts

Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal

In Case You Missed It...