Competency hearing for accused Tucson shooter delayed

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2011 3:09 PM
Competency hearing for accused Tucson shooter delayed

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A hearing to determine whether doctors treating accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner should be given more time to make him mentally fit to stand trial has been set back by one day to allow victims to attend.

District Court Judge Larry Burns on Tuesday pushed the hearing back to September 28 after learning that several victims and advocates would be unable to attend an earlier hearing, and it would be difficult for a prison psychologist evaluating Loughner to appear, according to court papers.

Loughner, 23, was declared in May to be mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, on January 8 in Tucson.

On Monday, Burns also ruled that Loughner must attend in person the hearing in Tucson to decide on a time extension that prosecutors claim is needed to restore his mental competency.

Prosecutors want another eight months to continue treating Loughner -- who has been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia -- at a federal prison facility in Springfield, Missouri. Defense attorneys oppose any time extension.

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

(Reporting by David Schwartz: Editing by Tim Gaynor and Greg McCune)