Mark Sherman

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an earlier time, the emerging portrait of a deeply troubled young man might have given Jared Loughner’s lawyers the basis of an insanity defense. But John Hinckley’s successful insanity claim after shooting President Ronald Reagan led Congress to raise the bar for federal court, making the task harder.

The Justice Department has not said whether it will seek the death penalty against Loughner, the suspect in the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the deaths of a federal judge, a congressional aide and four other people. But federal prosecutors already are moving forward with charges against Loughner, and veteran lawyers anticipate they will ask for him to be executed.

Many witnesses and ample evidence strongly suggest the government will have no trouble placing the gun in Loughner’s hands at the Tucson shopping center where the shootings took place. Internet postings and material investigators said they found at Loughner’s home suggest that he had prior contact with Giffords and might be planning something along the lines of Saturday’s rampage.