Thursday, April 19, 2012

Loughner attorneys appeal forced meds to 9th Circuit

The Tucson Sentinal
Dylan Smith

Attorneys for alleged Jan. 8 shooter Jared Loughner appealed Wednesday to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a rehearing on whether he can be involuntarily medicated.

Loughner — who faces 49 charges, including 14 that could carry the death penalty — has been involuntarily medicated at a Missouri prison hospital as doctors attempt to restore his ability to stand trial.

His attorneys said in a 92-page filing Wednesday that Loughner's "fair trial rights may be denied by forcible medication."

"Forcible administration of antipsychotic medications infringes on a significant liberty interest and creates the risk of severe and permanent harm," they said.

The filing said that prison doctors have increased Loughner's dose of the powerful antipsychotic drug risperidone to 9 mg per day, "which exceeds the normal adult dosage range."

Loughner's attorneys have repeatedly asked trial judge Larry Burns and the Appeals Court for a hearing on whether he should be forcibly medicated. A hearing specifically on that question has not been granted.
"Neither the prison’s administrative process nor the district court has placed any limitations on the types or quantities of medications BOP staff may force on Mr. Loughner. In fact, since this case was argued and submitted in November, the prison has increased his antipsychotic medication to a dose 150 percent of what he was receiving then," the filing said.

Loughner's legal team said in the filing that the courts haven't determined whether it's appropriate to forcibly medicate him while attempting to restore his ability to stand trial. Last year, Loughner was found by Burns to be unable to understand the charges against him or assist his lawyers in his defense.

"The government’s right to detain and medicate Mr. Loughner arises from its interest in convicting him for the crimes it has charged him with; unless the government chooses to initiate civil commitment proceedings, it has no right to hold him and treat him independent of its interest in taking him to trial," the filing said.

In February, Burns ruled that "measurable progress" had been made in restoring Loughner's ability to stand trial, saying that he should receive four more months of treatment.

A report by a government psychologist filed with the court Jan. 25 said that Loughner remains incompetent, but has made progress, Burns said at a hearing Feb. 6.

There is "reason to be optimistic" that Loughner will be found competent to stand trial, Burns said.
Reviewing the report by Dr. Christina Pietz, he said that the psychologist indicated Loughner is more alert and oriented, and that his "thinking has become more logical, linear and coherent."

Loughner, 22 at the time of the Jan. 8 shootings, is charged with 49 federal counts in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Fourteen of the charges carry the possibility of the death penalty. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.

Six were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including Giffords, who was shot through the head. She resigned from Congress in January, just after the first anniversary of the attack, to focus on her recovery.

Another victim of the shooting, former Giffords aide Ron Barber, is seeking her former seat in in a June special election.

Dylan Smith used to be the Online Editor at the Tucson Citizen. After the press stopped rolling there, he worked with some tenacious volunteers to start up  Prior to his work at the Citizen, Smith was the Executive Director of The Quintessential Stage, a nonprofit theatre company. He has experience in a variety of fields, including nonprofits, restaurant operations, construction planning, and the news business. He was the Editor and Publisher of ¿K? Magazine, an arts and culture monthly.  He is an experienced designer and computer programmer. He serves as an Invited Expert on the World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML Working Group, helping to write the latest specification for the language that runs the Internet.

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