Jared Loughner
Jared Loughner can be forced to take antipsychotic medication, according to a federal judge. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The presiding judge in Tuscon shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner’s competency trial has ruled that Loughner can be forced to take medication. Loughner was ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial and has been refusing to take any antipsychotic medications at the mental health facility in which he’s being held.

Suspect may not face new hearing for months

The presiding judge over the trial of Jared Lee Loughner is also having to hear proceedings over whether Loughner, 22, is competent to stand trial over the Tuscon, Ariz., shootings he allegedly committed that left six people dead and more than a dozen wounded. Recently, at issue has been whether Loughner can be forced to take antipsychotic medication. Judge Larry Burns, according to the Wall Street Journal, has ruled that staff at the correctional facility for mentally disturbed inmates can forcibly administer medication if needed.

Burns’ ruling challenges the precedent set by Rennie v. Klein, where it was decided that an inmate in a mental health facility can legally refuse medication if it interferes with his First Amendment rights of speech or Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The difference in the Loughner case is that he has been found incompetent to stand trial.

Currently, Loughner will not attend any proceedings relating to the 49 federal charges against him. This will change if he is ruled fit to stand trial. The next conference on Loughner’s status is scheduled for Sept. 21, 2011.

Suspect is ‘ticking time bomb,’ says prosecutor

A member of the prosecution said that Loughner is “a ticking time bomb,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Loughner, a diagnosed schizophrenic, has exhibited hostile and strange behavior in court and in custody over the past few months. On May 25, three days before he was sent to a federal correctional facility in Springfield, Mo., Loughner reportedly exclaimed, “Thanks for the free kill … your cheesiness,” reports CBS. In April, he spat on his lawyer and attempted to harm her, but was restrained by prison staff. On May 28, according to ABC, he threw a chair at a psychiatrist and a wet roll of toilet paper at a camera filming the interview.

As recently as June 6, Loughner was physically hostile toward correctional staff at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. He is being held in the psychiatric ward of the hospital.

Giffords recovering

Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the shooting, is recovering from being shot in the head at point blank range. She recently appeared at the retirement ceremony for her husband Mark Kelly, who retired from NASA after his mission on the Shuttle Endeavour.

Loughner reportedly fought with his lawyer when told Giffords survived, according to the New York Times, as he’d believed she had died in the attack.

Sources

Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304450604576415613805483704.html

San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/06/29/MN4E1K4G7U.DTL

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/14/national/main20071124.shtml

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/forced-medication-jared-loughner-charged-shooting-gabrielle-giffords/story?id=13956321

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/26/us/26loughner.html

Wikipedia on involuntary commitment: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involuntary_commitment

Wikipedia on Rennie v Klein: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rennie_v._Klein

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