A federal grand jury delivered its initial indictments against Jared Loughner on Tuesday: one count of attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and two of attempted murder of federal employees. Legal experts say Loughner's strongest argument, an insanity defense, could be a tough sell at the federal level and even tougher in a state court, reports NPR.
Things got a lot more difficult for defendants who wanted to plead insanity after John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan almost 30 years ago. The outcry was so great that Congress changed federal law. “The defense now has to prove by clear and convincing evidence, which is an extremely high burden  that the defendant did not understand the wrongfulness of his conduct,” says Barry Boss, a former public defender now at the Cozen O'Connor law firm. “That's a very difficult thing to establish because even in the most delusional people, there's often some evidence that they did things to avoid getting caught.” Lisa Wayne, president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, says most juries are like parents: They don't like excuses, even when they're valid. “Lay people out in the community really reject mental health defenses,” Wayne said. “They don't like them. They don't buy them. And it's very, very difficult to overcome what we have kind of generated in the community about what mental health is really about.”