(CN) – The 9th Circuit chastised the federal judge charged with the prosecution of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner for not stopping prison authorities from involuntarily administering psychotropic drugs to the unstable defendant.
Weeks after U.S. District Larry Judge Burns ruled in May that Loughner was incompetent to stand trial for a shooting rampage that killed six people and injured 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, staff at a federal facility in Springfield, Mo., found that Loughner was a danger to himself and to others and should be medicated.
Loughner is expected to remain at the federal facility for up to four months while undergoing treatment for schizophrenia.
His attorney Loughner filed an emergency motion on June 24 to stop the forced medication, but Burns upheld the treatment on June 30, saying he would not second-guess medical decisions.
Last week, the 9th Circuit granted a temporary stay to stop the government from medicating Loughner against his will, pending a hearing on the merits. It addressed Burns’ handling of the matter in a brief order Tuesday.
“Because Loughner has not been convicted of a crime, he is presumptively innocent and is therefore entitled to greater constitutional protections than a convicted inmate,” the unsigned order states.
Though the government’s desire to protect Loughner and those around him is serious, it is less immediate than Loughner’s desire to remain free from medication that can have fatal side effects, the court found, noting that Loughner has been in custody for six months already without injuring anyone.
The government claims that Lougher said “fuck you” to an examining psychiatrist during his competency review and twice threw a plastic chair at the doctor. He also allegedly “wet a roll of toilet paper attempting to throw it at the camera, and again threw the chair twice.”
These merits will come under review at an expedited hearing set for Aug. 29, according to the 9th Circuit.
“While both interests are significant, we conclude that preserving the dignity and bodily integrity of an individual who has not been convicted of a crime is the stronger interest, especially when the government has demonstrated that it is able to prevent that individual from harming himself or others,” the order states.