by Jim Nintzel
Two federal court filings Monday in the criminal case of the man accused in the January shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson, Ariz., strongly suggest that two health professionals who evaluated his mental state have determined he isn't competent to stand trial, according to legal experts.
The filings, one by the defense and one by the prosecution, indicate that a competency hearing for Jared Loughner scheduled in a Tucson federal court for May 25 could largely be a formality. Both filings agreed that the two doctors who evaluated Mr. Loughner wouldn't need to testify. The filings also said neither side would dispute the doctors' written reports.
If these reports, which are under seal, hadn't concluded Mr. Loughner was incompetent to stand trial, the defense would almost certainly be planning to put up a fight, experts said.
"My initial gut reaction would be that both have found him not competent to stand trial," said Kurt Altman, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Phoenix office who isn't involved in the case. Mr. Altman said defense lawyers wouldn't object to a finding of incompetence since it would delay Mr. Loughner's trial. Mr. Loughner could face the death penalty.