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Jared Lee Loughner pleads not guilty in Tucson shooting rampage

The accused gunman smirks through much of his hearing, and newly unsealed documents show more signs of a troubled mind. The judge schedules an inquiry to determine whether he's competent to stand trial.

March 10, 2011|By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Tucson — Accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 49 felony counts, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with a January shooting rampage here that killed six people and wounded 13, including a congresswoman.

Loughner, 22, smirked through much of Wednesday's proceedings, held at the same federal courthouse where one of those killed, U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, had worked.

Loughner is accused of targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) at a Jan. 8 event outside a Tucson supermarket. Investigatory documents unsealed Wednesday said authorities found a note at Loughner's home that said: "I planned ahead! My Assassination Love – Jared."

The unsealed documents did not offer any stunning revelations, but appeared to bolster comments by authorities, friends and former classmates who portrayed Loughner as troubled and confused.

Another note asked, "What is government if words don't have a meaning?" — a question friends said Loughner asked Giffords at a 2007 event. He found her answer unsatisfactory, they said, and hung onto a letter her office sent afterward. It was addressed to "Jared Loughney" — the name, court papers said, he had used on the sign-in sheet.

Authorities also found two 12-gauge shotguns and ammunition in Loughner's garage, court papers said, and seized notebooks, drawings, a computer, some poetry and a four-page document titled "False Reality," among other things.

On Wednesday, the suspected gunman spoke only when asked whether Jared Loughner was his name. "Yes, it is," he replied. Now and then, he swiveled in his chair.

Loughner was dressed in khaki prison garb and shackled; he had grown back his shaved-off brown hair and sported long sideburns. The courtroom was packed with reporters and victims' relatives, some of whom wore white rubber bracelets that said, "Remember 1.8.11."

U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns also scheduled a hearing to determine whether Loughner is competent to stand trial. The back-and-forth over related psychological tests suggested Loughner's mental state would play a significant role in the case.

"If he's not competent to understand, all these proceedings are for naught," Burns said.

Prosecutors asked that a psychologist evaluate Loughner to help determine whether he could understand the proceedings and assist in his own defense. Judy Clarke, Loughner's attorney, said putting him through such testing could fracture the relationship the defense team was trying to build with him.

But the judge said the issue of Loughner's competency needed to be resolved. Burns said he had concerns given the defendant's demeanor in court.

Prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst said Loughner had, at various times, believed the FBI and CIA were bugging him and admitted to hearing voices.

Before the shooting, Loughner had posted online a string of conspiratorial — and often nonsensical — videos, which prosecutors included in their request for psychological testing.

The videos, one of which is narrated, focused on grammar, the U.S. currency system, mind control and what Loughner termed "conscience dreaming." In one, a man believed to be Loughner wears a hood and trash bags and sets fire to an American flag.

On his MySpace page, Loughner had posted a picture of a Glock pistol lying on a U.S. history book. The same type of gun was used in the rampage.

ashley.powers@latimes.com

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