Judge Rules Prison Can Force-Medicate Loughner

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that prison officials in Missouri can force-medicate alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner, who is being held for a Tucson, Ariz., shooting spree in January in which six people were killed and 13 were injured – including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Loughner, 22, was sent to a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo., in March for a mental evaluation. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and, last month, declared unfit to stand trial.

According to the Tucson Citizen, in papers filed Tuesday, prosecutors noted several instances of violence from Loughner. In March, a prison psychologist said Loughner “suddenly became enraged” during an interview, using foul language and hurling a plastic chair at her. In April, he allegedly spat on his attorney, lunged at her and had to be restrained. In May, he allegedly threw chairs in his cell.

According to the local newspaper, doctors held an administrative hearing June 14, after which they decided Loughner is dangerous and could be forced to take psychiatric medicine. Loughner’s attorneys say they weren’t told about the meeting and therefore didn’t attend. On June 21, prison officials began administering the medicine to Loughner. His attorneys filed a motion asking the judge to stop the medication, which prompted the hearing yesterday.

“I have no reason to disagree with the doctors here,” said Judge Larry Burns during the hearing, according to The Associated Press. “They labor in this vineyard every day.”

If the drugs make Loughner competent to stand trial, prosecution could resume against him. A court hearing would need to be held to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

The judge will receive an update regarding Loughner’s mental condition at a status conference scheduled for Sept. 21.

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