A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected a request to halt a mental competency exam for the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage and return him to Arizona from the federal medical facility in Missouri where he is undergoing the test.
But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily put on hold a lower court's order requiring that video recordings of Jared Lee Loughner's exam be given to lawyers on both sides. The exam will still be video-recorded but will be set aside as lawyers litigate that issue.
That ruling came after the case's presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns, declined to a request by Loughner's lawyers to reconsider his order that sent their client to a federal facility in Springfield, Mo.
The suspect's lawyers said they were told Thursday by a psychologist at the federal facility that their client's exam had already begun.
The 22-year-old has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting at a congressional meet-and-greet event that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.
Loughner's lawyers argued that a mental exam could do irreparable damage to their client's rights while the matter is reviewed by the courts. They also objected to the exam being videotaped, and argued that providing prosecutors with the recordings would violate their client's rights to a fair trial and against self-incrimination.
Prosecutors wanted Loughner's request to be denied, arguing that his lawyers have offered no basis in law for their request.
Burn's order that authorized the exam said Loughner's attorneys can seek a separate competency exam by an independent psychiatrist.
In their brief rulings Thursday, the appellate judges temporarily put on hold the requirement that any reports by psychologists or psychiatrists who are hired by Loughner will be given to prosecutors and Burns.
In rejecting Loughner's request for the exam to be put on hold and that he be returned to a federal prison in Tucson, Burns ruled Thursday that the federal facility in Springfield is the best and closest place for the exam and that sending him there won't harm the defense of Loughner.
Burns also wrote that Loughner's lawyers _ and not prosecutors _ requested the video recording and that providing copies to both the prosecution and defense lawyers is only fair.
"Validating the defense request would sharply and unfairly tip the adversarial balance in this case, and there is no legal justification for it," Burns wrote.
Loughner was flown from Tucson to Springfield on Wednesday.
The exam will determine whether he understands the nature of the charges against him and can assist in his defense.
Messages left for Loughner attorney Judy Clarke weren't immediately returned.
Robbie Sherwood, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Arizona, which is prosecuting Loughner, declined to comment on the rulings by Burns and the appeals court.
Associated Press writer Bob Christie contributed to this report.