Hearing set on accused Tucson shooter competency extension

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 01, 2011 6:53 PM
Hearing set on accused Tucson shooter competency extension

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge will hear arguments on September 21 on whether to give doctors four more months to restore the mental competency of Tucson mass shooting suspect Jared Loughner.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said in court papers that prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled to be heard by the court via videoconference from San Diego.

Loughner, who turns 23 years old this month, is accused of opening fire outside a grocery store in a January 8 shooting spree that killed six and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

He has pleaded not guilty to 49 criminal charges, including multiple counts of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors said a prison doctor believes Loughner can be made mentally fit to stand trial and want until January 26, to continue his treatment, Burns wrote in court documents.

Defense attorneys first want a determination made by the original September 26 deadline before considering a possible time extension, he stated.

Loughner was declared mentally incompetent by Burns on May 25, and is being treated at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri.

Burns' call for a hearing comes after the warden of the Missouri facility wrote to the court seeking an unspecified amount of time to treat Loughner and determine if there is a "substantial probability" he can be made fit to stand trial.

Attached to the letter was a progress report by a prison doctor that said Loughner was "not competent" at this time.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Jerry Norton)