Surprise: Jared Loughner found incompetent to stand trial

He couldn’t even hold it together for an hour in court.

At least one of the doctors testifying to his competency described Jared Lee Loughner as a paranoid schizophrenic, a courtroom source told CBS News…

Loughner, dressed in a khaki prison suit and sporting bushy, reddish sideburns, was removed from the hearing after an outburst and had to watch part of the proceeding on a TV screen in another room. Burns had Loughner escorted from the courtroom after Loughner lowered his head and said what sounded like: “Thank you for the freak show. She died in front of me.” His head was inches from the table in front of him…

Loughner will be sent to a federal facility for a maximum of four months to see if his competency can be restored. If he’s later determined to be competent, the case against him will resume.

If he isn’t deemed competent at the end of his treatment, his stay at the facility can be extended. There are no limits on the number of times such extensions can be granted.

If doctors conclude they can’t restore his mental competency, the judge would have to decide whether the suspect can be restored. If the judge decides there’s no likelihood of restoration, the judge can dismiss the charges against him. In that case, state and federal authorities can petition to have him civilly committed and could seek to extend that commitment repeatedly, said Heather Williams, a federal public defender in Tucson who isn’t involved in the Loughner case.

Given the prominence of the case, I can’t believe a judge would ever agree to dismiss the charges outright, even with involuntary commitment a foregone conclusion afterward. If they can institutionalize him indefinitely in four-month increments with an eye to improving him until he’s trial-ready, they’ll do that — at least for a few years, until the public’s lost some interest. Also, that’s only the federal side of the case; Arizona’s planning to try him on state charges after the federal trial is over, but since that might now take years, maybe they’ll rethink that and get things going. If you’re anticipating a Hinckley-esque acquittal on insanity grounds, the federal standard is whether “the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts.” As Ace noted earlier, Loughner’s got a big problem there per his alleged use of the word “assassinate” in his writings about Giffords. And in any event, Arizona doesn’t allow for acquittals on insanity grounds; their standard is “guilty but insane,” which means the defendant is sent to a hospital after being convicted for treatment and, if he regains his sanity, is then sent to prison to serve his sentence. Long story short: No, this guy’s not getting out.

Two clips for you here, the second of which has Patrick Kennedy evincing some sympathy for Loughner a few days ago on grounds that he is, after all, a very sick man. The first is a CNN reporter describing the outburst in the courtroom today and the reaction from Loughner’s parents. The creepiest thing about it? The courtroom sketches, one of which clearly shows him grinning nuttily next to his lawyer.