Public overlooks aspects of Loughner case, trial


On Jan. 8, 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire into a crowd of people gathered for a public meeting in Tucson, Ariz. Nineteen people, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were shot, and six of those people died, including a 9-year-old girl. The story has kind of faded into the background since May 27 of last year, when Loughner was declared to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

I find this odd because a gunman perpetrated a crime and we have simply pushed it aside. This lack of attention has been due to Loughner’s trial getting pushed back because of competency hearings and medical check-ups regarding his diagnosis of schizophrenia. Yet, I believe there are important, but overlooked, aspects of this event that people should consider.

In the wake of the shooting that wounded or killed 19 people, the media tends to refer to Giffords as the only victim. In searches done on major news outlets online for updates on the case, the keywords “Jared Loughner” yielded pages of results for Giffords, which I find odd – 19 total victims and yet we only hear about the most famous survivor and nothing more about the six who died in the shooting. Now, actual coverage of the trial is dying off because it is perceived as boring, and that is irksome because what is happening behind the scenes might raise questions.

Since May of last year, Loughner has been held in a secure facility in Springfield, Mo., following doctors’ diagnosis of schizophrenia and a federal judge’s declaration that he was mentally unfit to stand trial. The court has ruled that he can be made fit for trial and, as a result, he is currently being medicated in custody in prison.

Does Loughner’s medication affect his chances in court? I would think that with all of the effort and medical issues the state is going through to make him fit for trial, they would just proceed with the trial, regardless of his current mental state. And, since he is mentally ill, can they legally cross-examine him about the shooting? All that I know, with the limited coverage of the proceedings, is that in September of last year. after Loughner was still found to be unfit for trial but as he was having some progress with medication, another competency hearing was set for June of this year.

And finally, there is the public reaction to this crime. There was initial debate in the aftermath regarding gun control laws, but that amounted to nothing. After opening fire on the crowd, Loughner was apprehended after allegedly having problems reloading his Glock 19 with an extended magazine. Following an increase in sales of extended magazines, Don Davis, owner of Don’s Guns in Indianapolis, mentioned his upswing in customers.

“We’re seeing a lot of young people coming into the range,” Davis said in a Jan. 13, 2011, USA Today article by Judy Keen and Tim Evans. “Some of them are in there shooting and seeing how fast they can change clips.”

To me, that is scary – a person commits a crime and it seems as though people may be emulating it.

However, Davis does note that the increased sale of the magazine was probably due to fears that the capacity of magazines would be limited following the shootings. The article also mentions that “high-profile shootings often prompt increased interest in the firearms used.”

These are among the details of the Loughner case that bother me. The story is not being covered any more, and when it is, it focuses on one single person. Furthermore, there is little coverage of Loughner’s medical treatment in prison, and no one is asking questions about that. These are things I think people should think about.

Everyone deserves a fair trial. And as part of a fair trial, people should not be forcibly medicated against their will because it is convenient. Considering the crime, I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to have this process worked out to its fullest extent. However, since it is a court of law, it also benefits everyone if we don’t have to wonder about the legal process.

Right now, Loughner is held indefinitely to see if he can be made fit to speak for himself at trial. It is questionable whether or not the treatment will work in time to achieve the desired result. Lastly, people should not hear or read the news and believe that the famous person was the only victim as there are other families and survivors in pain from this tragedy.


Patrick White is a junior in journalism. Please send all comments to