Accused Tucson shooter, lawyers at odds over hearing

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 21, 2011 9:48 PM
Accused Tucson shooter, lawyers at odds over hearing

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Accused Tucson shooter Jared Loughner wants to attend a court hearing in Arizona next week, against the wishes of his lawyers who argued it could pose a risk to his mental health, court documents said.

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 in Tucson in January.

U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns has ordered Loughner to attend a hearing at federal court in Tucson next Wednesday to determine if prison doctors should be given more time to make him mentally fit to stand trial.

The differences between Loughner and his attorneys emerged in the transcript of a hearing Burns held earlier in the week.

Christina Pietz, a clinical psychologist treating Loughner at a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, testified that Loughner wanted to attend the September 28 hearing in his home town to be able to see his family.

"I do think he has an ulterior motive why he wants to be in Tucson. I think he wants to visit his mother and father," Pietz said. "In addition to that, he understands that there is a hearing to make a determination if he can be having an extended stay in Springfield."

Loughner's attorney, Judy Clarke, meanwhile, argued that attendance at the hearing posed an "unnecessary risk" to her client, who is on suicide watch at the hospital in Springfield, and had been described as "gravely disabled."

Following the hearing, Burns ruled that Loughner must attend the hearing in Tucson on Wednesday that was set to decide on the extension prosecutors said was needed to restore his mental competency.

Prosecutors want another eight months to continue treating Loughner, who has been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. Loughner's defense team opposes any such extension.

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

(Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)