Once upon a time, it would have been easy for Jared Lee Loughner’s lawyers to mount an insanity defense—after all, the guy sure seems nuts. But these days, that's easier said than done, legal experts tell the AP. Congress made it drastically harder to mount an insanity defense in federal cases after John Hinkley used one to get off in the shooting of Ronald Reagan. Now, among other changes, the burden for proof of insanity lies with the defense.
In Arizona, meanwhile, the law doesn’t even allow verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity, instead giving juries the option to find a defendant “guilty, but insane,” which would send Loughner to prison if he’s ever well enough to leave a mental hospital. Loughner’s lawyers will probably devote their efforts not to clearing Loughner, but to avoiding the death penalty. But prosecutors won’t be eager to cut a deal, given that there were multiple victims and that one of them was a child.