Tucson shooting suspect back on forced medication: lawyer

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2011 6:34 PM
Tucson shooting suspect back on forced medication: lawyer

By Tim Gaynor

TUCSON, Ariz (Reuters) - Accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner is again receiving anti-psychotic medication in jail against his will, in what his lawyers said was an apparent violation of an earlier appeals court ruling.

In a filing with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, attorneys for Loughner said officials at a federal prison hospital in Missouri took a decision on Monday to resume forcibly medicating Loughner with pyschotropic drugs on an "emergency basis."

Attorney Judy Clarke questioned whether the forced medication violated a previous ruling by the court on July 12 that Loughner should not have been forced to take anti-psychotic drugs against his will without a judge first ruling on his appeal of the issue.

"The records received to date indicate that the prison has directly contravened this court's injunction less than a week after it was entered," Clarke noted.

Loughner had been placed on suicide watch at the prison hospital facility in Missouri, where officials previously raised concerns that he presented a danger to others.

Clarke noted that while the prison had resumed Loughner's medication on an "emergency basis," the dose of the drug risperidone administered by officials was "typical of long-term therapeutic regimes."

She called for daily production of prison records to determine the extent of the emergency, and whether ongoing medication is warranted.

In a ruling earlier this month, the appeals court ordered that its stay should remain in effect until a hearing on the merits of Loughner's appeal, and it ordered a such a hearing set for the week of August 29.

Although prison officials remain barred from giving Loughner anti-psychotic drugs against his will, the court said they were free to take less drastic measures to control his behavior, including forced administration of tranquilizers.

The college dropout was declared in May to be mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a January 8 shooting rampage in Tucson.

At the hearing, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns cited the conclusions of two medical experts that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.

Described by his own lawyers as "gravely mentally ill," Loughner has been since undergoing psychiatric evaluation to determine whether his ability to understand the court proceedings against him can be restored.

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

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Greg McCune)