PHOENIX - The defense team for the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage has interviewed at least one of their client’s relatives and sought records on other family members as part of an effort to show that his family has a history of mental illness.
Jared Lee Loughner’s lawyers sent subpoenas to officials in Illinois seeking birth records and in some cases death records for nearly two dozen relatives on Loughner’s mother’s side of the family. They also sent a mitigation specialist to the Texas home of a Loughner relative to talk about mental health problems suffered by relatives.
Judy Wackt, the first cousin of Loughner’s mother, Amy, said she confirmed the history of mental illness within the family when mitigation specialist Scharlette Holdman came to her home near Fort Worth in March.
Wackt, whose mother is the sister of Amy Loughner’s mother, said her oldest aunt, Virginia Stran, suffered from bipolar disorder and was hospitalized for it. The aunt was mentally healthy for years, then slipped into a depression.
“When she got to the bottom of the depression, it became extreme,’’ Wackt said.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords. He has been at a federal holding facility in Missouri since late May after mental health experts determined he suffers from schizophrenia. A judge ruled him mentally unfit to stand trial.
Mental health specialists are trying to make him mentally fit to stand trial. He is being forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs after prison officials determined his outbursts there posed a danger.