March 8, 2011 / 3:27 AM / 7 years ago

Prosecutors ask for mental evaluation of Jared Loughner

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Monday asked a judge to order that accused Tucson mass shooter Jared Loughner be tested to determine if he is mentally competent to stand trial.

In court papers, prosecutors seek to have Loughner undergo a mental examination to ensure he can “understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him and/or assist counsel in his defense.”

Prosecutors wrote in documents filed in the District Court of Arizona that the competency question must be addressed, to avoid any delay in court proceedings.

The 22-year-old college dropout was indicted on 49 felony counts on Friday, in a move that set in motion a process for the government to determine whether to seek the death penalty.

The charges include first-degree murder of a federal judge and an aide to Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords was shot in the head, but survived the January 8 shooting spree at a Tucson-area grocery store.

This is not the first time Loughner’s mental competency has been brought to light, with authorities and school officials raising possible problems early on.

Pima Community College officials say Loughner was involved in a series of on-campus disruptions between February and September 2010 that led school administrators to bar him until he could be examined and cleared to return by a psychiatrist. He chose to withdraw from college.

The college released a home video Loughner allegedly posted on YouTube that officials say was narrated by him, as he walked around campus, rambling about the government and mind control and complaining about his grades.

In the new court filing, prosecutors told the court that the YouTube videos, and postings on his MySpace page, suggest Loughner “may have mental issues.”

The documents describe a photo with what appears to be a Glock semi-automatic pistol on top of a history book and an item depicting the White House, with U.S. presidents on its edges. Loughner allegedly used a Glock in the shooting spree.

A seven-minute YouTube video also mentioned in the documents shows what is believed to be Loughner, hooded and masked and wearing garbage bags on his body as he burns an American flag.

Heavy metal music plays in the background early on in the video, with the words “Let the bodies hit the floor” heard repeated, according to court documents.

Also on Monday, defense attorneys asked that a potential trial date be pushed back to January 2013. District Judge Larry Burns had suggested the trial get under way by September 20.

Loughner is set to be arraigned on the newly filed 49 felony counts on Wednesday in Tucson before Burns.

Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jerry Norton

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