Jared Lee Loughner accused of shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others not fit to stand trial

Escorted from a Tucson courtroom during hearing

TUCSON, AZ - A federal court judge has ruled Jared Lee Loughner is not mentally competent to stand trial for the shooting of Rep.Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson.

As a result, that judge will likely send Loughner back to a prison hospital for further treatment.

During the hearing, Loughner was removed from the courtroom after an outburst, and watched the rest of the proceeding on a TV screen in another room.

Loughner was later brought back into the courtroom and U.S. District Judge Larry Burns told him he had a right to watch the hearing. Burns asked Loughner if he wanted to view the proceeding from another room.

Loughner responded: "I want to watch the TV screen."

The hospital restoration process is a four to eight month process, according to Kurt Altman, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Phoenix who is not involved in the Loughner case.

The goal is for psychological care to restore the patient to competency in order to stand trial.

However, Altman said there's a chance doctors could find that Loughner is unfit and could never improve mentally.

"Let's say that's the ultimate finding...then unfortunately, the case gets dismissed...you cannot proceed under the Constitution to a trial when the defendant is not competent to stand trial," said Altman.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting at a meet-and-greet event that wounded Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.

Loughner's lawyers haven't said whether they intend to present an insanity defense. But they noted in court filings that his mental condition will likely be a central issue at trial and described him as a "gravely mentally ill man."

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