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Shooting suspect 'needs medication'

The suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage should remain forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs despite his lawyers' claims that doing so violates his due-process rights, US prosecutors said.

Jared Lee Loughner's lawyers had earlier asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal to stop the forcible medication of their client at a federal prison facility where doctors are trying to make him mentally fit to stand trial.

Prosecutors told the court in a filing that officials at the prison determined at an administrative hearing that Loughner should be forcibly medicated because his outbursts there posed a danger.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the January 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded 13, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

The 22-year-old has been at a prison facility in in Springfield, Missouri, since May 27 after a judge concluded he was mentally unfit to help in his legal defence. He was forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1 after prison officials concluded his outbursts at the prison posed a danger to others.

The appeals court temporarily halted the medication. But prison officials resumed medicating him on July 19 after they concluded his psychological condition was deteriorating and put him on round-the-clock suicide watch. The court later lifted its ban on medicating Loughner.

At issue in Loughner's appeal is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether a mentally ill person who poses a danger in prison should be forcibly medicated. Prosecutors say the decision is for prison officials to make, while Loughner's lawyers say it is up to a judge.

The 67-page filing by prosecutors lays the groundwork for an August 30 hearing before the appeals court in San Francisco over forced medication. It provided little new detail on Loughner's behaviour in prison. Several pages of the filing were redacted nearly in full to omit details from documents that are under seal.

If Loughner is later determined to be competent enough for trial, the court proceedings will resume. If he is not deemed competent at the end of his treatment, Loughner's stay at the facility can be extended.

Loughner's lawyers have not said whether they intend to present an insanity defence, but they noted in court filings that his mental condition will likely be a central issue at trial.

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