Loughner Competency Hearing Gears Up

     TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Mass-shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner is back in court today for a second hearing on whether he is competent to stand trial for a Jan. 8 rampage that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
     Prosecutors want eight more months to treat Loughner for schizophrenia at the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Mo, where he has been held since U.S. District Judge Larry Burns declared him incompetent in late May. Loughner’s attorney, Judy Clarke, argues that more than two months of forced daily medication of a “four-drug cocktail” has only exacerbated the suspect’s precarious mental state.
     “His presentation may be different today compared to when BOP initiated forced medication – he is severely depressed and on suicide watch – but he is not better,” Clarke argued in court filings, referring to the Bureau of Prisons. “He is on a host of psychotropic medications, all administered against his will, that cause multiple side effects which dramatically affect his functioning, including sedation, restlessness, agitation, pacing, dizziness, thick tongue, and constipation.”
     Clarke added Loughner’s problems are no longer limited to “just being psychotic.” Since his last appearance before the court, Loughner has become “severely depressed, tearful, restless, agitated, and psychotic,” she said.
     Doctors in Missouri began administering psychotropic drugs to the 23-year-old in July after he allegedly became a danger to himself, but Clarke has rigorously fought the forced medication regime.
     Initially, a panel of 9th Circuit judges in San Francisco ordered the government to stop the medication, but they changed course after Loughner’s condition reportedly deteriorated. The court has yet to rule on the merits of the issue after hearing oral arguments earlier this month.
     Prosecutors maintain that Loughner can be restored to competency within eight months. Loughner’s primary treating psychologist, Dr. Christina Pietz, reported that “while the defendant presently remains incompetent to stand trial, it is likely that he will be competent in the near future,” as “historically most defendants reach competency within eight months of their commitment,” according to recent court filings.
     Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13, including Rep. Giffords, at the congresswoman’s Jan. 8 rally. U.S. District Judge John Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a Giffords’ aide, were among those killed.

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