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March 5, 2011

Is the death penalty the only real matter in doubt in the Loughner prosecution?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new CBS News piece headlined "Expert: Only question is will Loughner get death." Here are excerpts from the interesting piece:

Federal prosecutors on Friday announced new charges against the suspect in the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, accusing him of killing six people and wounding 13 others who were exercising the fundamental American "right to meet freely, openly and peaceably with their member of Congress."...

The indictment charged Loughner in the murders of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, and with causing the deaths of four others who were not federal employees, including a 9-year-old girl.  Loughner also was charged with causing the death of a participant at a federally provided activity; injuring a participant at a federally provided activity; and using a gun in a crime of violence....

Federal prosecutors haven't yet said whether they will seek the death penalty against Loughner. But legal experts believe it's a virtual certainty.  And one expert, former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin, told "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Russ Mitchell, "He's going to be convicted. It's a question of whether or not he will be put to death."

Loughner will likely face state charges in the attack, as well, but will be tried in federal court before any prosecution begins on state charges.  Federal and county prosecutors said federal law requires state prosecutions to be suspended while a federal case is pending....

Hostin called the new indictment "really novel."  She explained, ""Typically, federal prosecutors have to have a federal hook.  We know, initially, they were charging him because judge Roll was a federal judge who was killed.  He was being charged with that murder.  He was also being charged, of course, with the maiming of the congresswoman. That was the federal hook.  This time, 49-count indictment, 28 pages, they are charging for the assault and murders of the civilians.  And the way they are doing that is they're basically claiming the fact that they were attending this sort of 'Congress on the Corner' made that corner ... almost congressional ground. It was a federally-protected activity."

"I will say this: There's no question that he did this. So many witnesses. Why bring that sort of novel count, that novel legal argument here? (It) makes me a little uncomfortable. This is certainly going to be an issue on appeal." Hostin added, "Many people are saying that it's because they want justice for the families. They don't want the state to be involved at this point. They want the federal government to get justice for those families."

Thanks to the Arizona Republic, we can all access the superceding indictment in the Loughner case at this link.

March 5, 2011 at 06:18 PM | Permalink


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No. Paranoid schizophrenics kill 2000 of the 17,000 murder victims a year. And there are 30,000 suicides a year. These represent the greatest loss of productive life years of any disease because it happens to the young and middle aged. The overwhelming majority have no psychiatric drugs in their bodies. They went untreated despite the begging of their families. Why?

The Supreme Court took over psychiatry in 1976, when there was no evidence of any abuse of power. In order to get involuntary treatment, one must have a hearing with a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and the buffoon in the middle. The prosecutor must show with a clear and convincing burden of proof that the defendant has a mental illness and has committed a dangerous act. This proceeding replaced examination by two unrelated doctors to show the need for treatment, and not that harm had already been done. This decision created massive lawyer employment, but insurmountable obstacles to obtaining care for many families. In the case of paranoid schizophrenics, it is part of the illness to deny anything wrong and to blame all bad events on the conspiracies and oppressions of others.

Now Loughner qualifies for involuntary treatment, under the regimen of the rent seeking Supreme Court.

If you liked this rampage, and that against 2000 other people a year, thank the Supreme Court.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 5, 2011 10:22:43 PM

The answer to the question in the post title is "No". Because even if he somehow draws a death sentence it's not going to be carried out.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Mar 6, 2011 10:26:33 AM

Remember, the guy who was recently convicted of the embassy bombings only got convicted on one count, but acquitted on the rest.

Posted by: . | Mar 6, 2011 11:00:15 AM

No, he has a fare case for the insanity defense. His mental illness and erratic behavior is clear.

Even if he can't manage an acquittal I can still see a split jury recommending Life Without Parole. If Brian Nichols, the Atlanta courthouse killer, can dodge the death penalty by a vote of 9 to 3 then nothing is guaranteed. I'm one of the people who is really surprised that the first of the Cheshire killers got death.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Mar 6, 2011 11:15:03 AM

Hey Doug, I bet you'll find this interesting:


Posted by: dm | Mar 6, 2011 12:09:59 PM

This is one of those cases where the death penalty should be mandatory.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 6, 2011 1:06:21 PM

They can easily convict him on killing a federal judge and probably get death. The state courts would undoubtedly convict on the other murders, and also probably impose death. They are just doing him a favor by potentially overreaching with this "novel" conception of federal prosecution power. It will allow him to spend years challenging/appealing legitimate legal questions.

If they are consciously trying to use this extreme case as an anchor to expand the federal police power, then maybe this makes sense. But in terms of the prosecution of Loughner itself, it seems really dumb.

Posted by: Observer | Mar 7, 2011 4:07:36 PM

Mike: The paranoia makes him more dangerous than a contract killer. The latter will not harm anyone unless paid. This one will harm anyone he feels is oppressing him in his delusions. He may also kill people not oppressing him in his beliefs, such as beautiful little girls.

So, insanity justifies the death penalty even more than contracts for killing.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 8, 2011 5:38:07 AM

Observer --

Loughner shows up one sunny afternoon and opens fire wildly on bunch of people who had done him no wrong, killing, among others, a nine year-old girl and a federal judge, and it's the GOVERNMENT that's guilty of "overreach"???!!!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 8, 2011 2:14:25 PM

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