Judge orders hearing on forced medication for Loughner

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2011 9:58 PM
Judge orders hearing on forced medication for Loughner

By Tim Gaynor

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge has ordered a hearing on Tucson shooting rampage suspect Jared Loughner's petition to stop prison officials from forcibly medicating him with anti-pyschotic drugs.

U.S. District judge Larry Burns set the hearing for 2 p.m. on June 29 at the U.S. District Court in San Diego, California. Loughner, being held at a federal prisoners' hospital in Missouri, is not expected to attend, a spokesman for the prosecution said.

Loughner was declared mentally incompetent last month to stand trial on charges he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

His defense team filed an emergency petition last Friday, arguing the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, had decided -- without the permission of the court -- to "involuntarily and forcibly medicate him on the grounds that he is a danger to others."

In response Tuesday, prosecutors said that after Loughner had declined to take medication, the Bureau of Prisons held an administrative hearing to determine whether he should be involuntarily medicated.

The filing said that Loughner was afforded all his procedural rights. It said a staff representative at the facility in Missouri explained to him why he was to be given a review hearing, explained his rights to him, and stated he would answer any questions.

The prosecutor's filing also shed more light on Loughner's outbursts since he was first sent to Missouri for an evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial.

Prosecutors said that during an interview by court appointed psychologist Christina Pietz in March, Loughner suddenly became enraged. "He said 'Fuck you,' (and) threw a plastic chair twice toward Dr. Pietz."

He then wet a roll of toilet paper, attempting to throw it at the camera in the interview room, and "threw the chair twice more, hitting the grill between them."

In a meeting with his attorney, Judy Clarke, in early April, Loughner spat and "lunged at her, and had to be restrained by staff," prosecutors said.

Burns previously set a hearing for September 21 to determine whether Loughner's condition had improved enough for the proceedings against him to resume.

Loughner is accused of opening fire with a semiautomatic pistol on Giffords and a crowd of bystanders attending a political gathering outside a Tucson supermarket in January. Giffords, a third-term Democrat, is still recovering from a single gunshot wound to her head.

Loughner pleaded not guilty in March to 49 charges stemming from the shooting rampage at the "Congress on Your Corner" event, including multiple counts of first-degree murder.

He has been described by his lawyers as "gravely mentally ill." At the competency hearing in May, Burns cited the conclusions of two medical experts that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

In a sign of his mental agitation during the hearing last month, Loughner rocked back and fourth, and was dragged from the courtroom shouting, "She died in front of me," shortly before Burns ruled him incompetent to stand trial.

In the filing on Tuesday, prosecutors said psychiatrists at the Missouri facility concluded that treatment with psychotropic medication "is universally accepted as the choice of treatment for people with the defendant's mental illness."

(Editing by Jerry Norton)