Friday, August 10, 2012

Jared Lee Loughner

Killing six people and injuring over a dozen more garnered Loughner a life sentence without the possibility of parole this week.  That doesn't sound like too much of a victory, but when you weigh it against the death penalty it sounds just fine indeed from his perspective.

Over a year ago, a judge in Arizona declared Loughner was incompetent to stand trial.  This led to treatment in order to get him competent.  I discussed the difference between competency and an insanity defense in a previous post.  It took over a year, but through treatment, therapy, and medication, Loughner attained competency.

Then, he had to deal with the reality of what he did - collect guns and ammunition and set out to kill innocent people.  He had to face the truth.  He had to face his family.  He had to face the victims.  

This act provides closure to this case.  Closure to the victims and their families.  Everyone can move on from the legal proceedings.  No one has to be put through a long, drawn-out trial with numerous experts weighing in on each side about the sanity of Loughner.  No Court TV, CNN, or Today Show.  Such a violent, attention seeking act will end quietly.

So if he's not competent to stand trial, how could he be considered sane when he committed the crimes you say?

Competency and sanity are two very different beasts.  And there are many factors that weigh on both the defendant and prosecution when the plea discussion happens.

First, the defendant has to attain competency.  He has to know what's going on around him.  Competency has nothing to do with Loughner's mental state at the time of the crime.  It has to do with his mental state at the time he's charged.  Only after he is competent can his attorney have a frank discussion about the case with him.

Once he has competency (not in the legal sense, but enough so the attorney can talk to him rationally), the defense attorney will discuss strategy with him.  There are only two defenses in every cases - I didn't do it or I did it, but . . .

The I didn't do it defense is the claim that witnesses are mistaken or lying.  That clearly was not the case here.  So Loughner had to rely on the second defense.  I did it, but . . .

A few of the buts are :
- I did it but, the victim was going to kill me (self-defense)
- I did it but, someone made me do it (duress)
- I did it but, the devil made me do it (insanity)

The only viable defense here was insanity.  Once decided, Loughner and his attorney had to do a cost benefit analysis.  The cost was his life.  The benefit was possibly walking away from the crimes due to the defense of insanity.  This was close to impossible though.  There was evidence of a thorough plan.  Everything he did screamed intent and planning.  Yes you have to be a little crazy to commit any crime like this (or any violent crime for that matter), but not always crazy under the law.

I'm not sure, but I imagine the prosecution spoke to each of the victims and families and they all signed off on the plea.  No trial.  No spectacle.  Loughner spends the rest of his life in jail.  Whether you agree with the death penalty or not, the resolution of this case seems fair.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad there was no spectacle, he doesn't deserve any more attention. Thanks for making the distinction between competency and insanity. I did not know that!