« New York Times editorial laments "Too Many Prisoners" | Main | "Despite Supreme Court Ruling, Many Minors May Stay in Prison for Life" »

August 5, 2012

Federal plea deal (for LWOP sentence) in the works for Tucson shooter Jared Loughner

This FoxNews story, headlined "Loughner to plead guilty in Giffords shooting, source says," reports on a fascinating potential development in a high-profile federal case. Here are the details:

Jared Loughner, the man accused in a 2011 shooting rampage that seriously wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, will plead guilty Tuesday to murder and attempted murder, a source familiar with the deal told Fox News.

A court-appointed psychiatrist will testify Loughner is competent to enter a plea in the Tucson massacre that killed six people and injured 13, including Giffords.  A possible plea deal would send him to prison for the rest of his life, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press.

The plea and deal are contingent upon the judge agreeing Loughner is competent and allowing him to accept the plea, which are not certain in this case, the source says.  A status conference in the federal case had already been scheduled for Tuesday in Tucson....

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet with constituents.  Authorities said he shot Giffords, opened fire on the crowd and was subdued by bystanders.  Giffords was shot in the head and subsequently left Congress to devote her time to rehabilitation....

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled previously that Loughner isn't psychologically fit to stand trial, but that he could eventually be made ready for trial after treatment....   Experts have concluded that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, and prison officials in Missouri, where Loughner has been held, have forcibly medicated him with psychotropic drugs.

Even though psychologists have said Loughner's condition is improving, his lawyers have vigorously fought the government's efforts to medicate him.  At one point, a federal appeals court halted the forced medication, but resumed it once mental health experts at the prison concluded that Loughner's condition was deteriorating further.

Loughner has demonstrated bizarre behavior since his arrest.  He was removed from a May 25, 2011, court hearing when he lowered his head to within inches of the courtroom table, then lifted his head and began a loud and angry rant.

His psychologist has said that since Loughner has been forcibly medicated, his condition has improved.  He sat still and expressionless for seven hours at a hearing in September 2011.

UPDATE:  In this post at C&C, Kent Schneidegger adds these points:

Why would anyone voluntarily accept a sentence to spend the rest of his life in prison? To avoid the death penalty, of course.  What happens in jurisdictions that don't have the death penalty?  Plea bargains with sentences of life or very long terms drop off sharply....

There is something to be said, from the victims' point of view, for a disposition of a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole and no appeals.  That disposition is rarely possible in jurisdictions with no death penalty.

With the federal case concluded, will Arizona prosecutors go forward with their case? That remains to be seen.

STILL MORE: This new AP article, headlined "Change-of-plea hearing set for Loughner," seems to confirm the reports about a pending plea in this case. Here is how the article starts:

The judge overseeing the deadly Tucson, Ariz., mass shooting case on Monday scheduled competency and change of plea hearings for defendant Jared Lee Loughner.  U.S. District Judge Alan Burns scheduling order confirms that a plea deal has been reached in the shooting that left six dead and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others wounded

Before Loughner can enter the plea, Burns must find that Loughner is mentally competent and understands what is happening.  The hearings are set for Tuesday morning in Tucson.

August 5, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2017743ee23ed970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Federal plea deal (for LWOP sentence) in the works for Tucson shooter Jared Loughner:

Comments

confess or else ...

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 6, 2012 9:21:15 AM

Claudio --

Of all the blockheaded things you've posted, that one takes the cake. I was a prosecutor for a long time, and I have seldom seen a case in which a confession would be less important. There are, what, 50 witnesses? And Loughner was captured on the scene. For this we need a confession? Are you joking?

Nor do we need a confession of criminal intent. The evidence of pre-planning is overwhelming.

And you can't "confess" that you're sane, since, when sanity is at issue, the the confession itself is going to be independently examined, As the article shows, it will be evaluated by the court. "Confessions" of sanity are not self-authenticating.

I mean, really, claudio. Like the government needs a confession to establish what 50 people saw. What a hoot!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 6, 2012 9:46:35 AM

Hey BO!
blockheaded things are yours silly ideas about the death penalty. Your foolish assertions about deterrence, justice, just desert, victims’ rights and all the bloody paraphernalia of the hangman friends

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 6, 2012 10:03:09 AM

Claudio --

At least you made no effort to defend your "confess or else..." baloney. A wise move. There might yet be hope for you.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 6, 2012 11:08:48 AM

The ability to have the power to make deals of this sort is a reason to have a possible higher sentence even one rarely used though not sure if LWOP, supermax prisons and other sorts of things would not also provide an opening to encourage deals. Of course, if you think the bargaining chip (let's say -- not saying it is the same thing -- it's torture) is too problematic, you might not think it should be allowed. The fact that something might have some benefit obviously doesn't mean on balance it should be allowed in each case.

As to the first comment, we had a reference a few weeks back to false admitting guilt for simply prudential reasons & it might come into play here too somehow. Again, it is a question of looking at it on balance.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 6, 2012 12:40:55 PM

Mr Otis:
Sorry, but it’s the essence of Kent Schneidegger’s reasoning

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Aug 6, 2012 12:43:09 PM

Joe --

"The fact that something might have some benefit obviously doesn't mean on balance it should be allowed in each case."

Straw man. No one has maintained that the DP should be allowed in "each case."

"As to the first comment, we had a reference a few weeks back to false admitting guilt for simply prudential reasons & it might come into play here too somehow."

How, exactly? Loughner did his killing at a public event in front of 50 witnesses, and was captured at the scene. Since, on that record, no sensate person could doubt that he did it, his admission that he did it could hardly be false.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 6, 2012 3:18:39 PM

The quoted portion references "something," not the death penalty in particular, so no "strawman" was intended though some do support a mandatory death penalty if certain criteria are met. So, again, on principle, just because something is useful, it might not be okay for it to be acceptable in "each case."

As to the second part, e.g., if he is not guilty for reason of insanity -- which a "sensate person" might think -- it would be "false" to have him plea guilty. Now, I'm not saying he is clearly not guilty for reason of insanity. I said "might." And, of course, if we think big picture, in a more murky case, even factual guilt (or guilt of the specific charge, such as first v. second degree) might also come into play in death penalty cases.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 6, 2012 5:09:45 PM

Even if confess-or-else misses the mark in Loughner's case, it stands up pretty well as the de facto battle cry of the justice system in post-Nixon America.

Posted by: John K | Aug 7, 2012 9:26:34 AM

John K --

"Even if confess-or-else misses the mark in Loughner's case, it stands up pretty well as the de facto battle cry of the justice system in post-Nixon America."

What exactly would be wrong with Loughner's confessing that he did it? No sane person believes anything else, and the government has more evidence of this fact than it can possibly use.

I don't personally give a hoot whether he confesses. And I plead guilty to thinking that people ought to tell the truth about what they do.

But not to worry, John. I have found out already that such a stance favoring truth-telling is highly unpopular with the defense bar. That too is fine with me, because it further entrenches the defense bar's reputation with the public.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 7, 2012 3:56:46 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB