What makes people tick? Nature versus nurture? Sick versus evil? Black, white or shades of gray?
I think I've said it before, but one of the main reasons I became a cops and courts reporter is my fascination with the criminal mind. What makes people do the horrible things they do?
In that context, the first hour of Jared Lee Loughner's hearing Tuesday was fascinating.
Forensic psychologist Christina Pietz said she met with Loughner nearly every day he's been at her facility in Springfield, Missouri. She saw him most weekends and often drove back into work if she heard Loughner was particularly upset.
She reviewed Loughner's diary and computer entries and thousands of pages of police reports, interviews with those who knew Loughner, school records, medical records, etc.
Pietz never spoke with Loughner's parents directly. They answered questions she submitted to them through their attorney.
Loughner was an average student who appeared normal up until he was 16 or so.
When Loughner began saying odd things and becoming disruptive, it appears as though his friends stuck by him for awhile. Pietz said they went so far as to initiate a suicide watch over him at one point.
Later, however, the friends began to ostracize him, Pietz said. They weren't afraid he would become violent, she stressed. They were young and they were afraid because he was different, she said.
Pietz diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia during a 35-day evaluation period after his arrest. He began turning into a "human" again shortly after they started him on anti-psychotic medicine.
On July 5, 2011, Loughner denied being mentally ill, but said he wanted to be executed for his crimes. Four days later, he expressed regret for his actions for the first time.
In the days following, Loughner began saying he was tormented by thoughts about his actions and sometimes yelled because he hurt so much.
Loughner has never refused to take his oral meds, but he's not voluntarily taking them, either, Pietz said. If he had refused, he likely would've been forcibly injected.
Loughner "loves" having two jobs, Pietz said. He rolls up inmates' T-shirts and underwear in towels for distribution and stamps outgoing envelopes with return addresses.
"It's a big deal to him. He's doing something he's successful at," Pietz said.
He thinks of Gabrielle Giffords' survival as another failure in his life, Pietz said.
"I do not believe that is a delusion," Pietz said.
At times he's said no one should've survived that shot to the head.
Loughner does not like talking about himself so he doesn't spontaneously offer up what he's thinking about, Pietz said. He also doesn't like being in public.
Pietz believes Loughner will stay stable if medicated, but gave two caveats.
Sometimes patients will become too acclimated to their meds and adjustments will have to be made. In addition, meds will not address the depression Loughner will likely suffer from the rest of his life.
"He will have to learn to live with what he did," and the fact it put him behind bars forever, Pietz said.