Jared Lee Loughner Shooting Suspect

November 6, 2011 by staff 

Jared Lee Loughner Shooting Suspect, Prison officials are unfairly forcing the man suspected of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords to take a powerful anti-psychotic so he can stand trial and possibly face the death penalty for a shooting rampage that also killed six, his lawyers argued Tuesday.

Prison officials said they are forcing Jared Lee Loughner to take the drug to treat his schizophrenia because they say he is a danger to himself and others. The forced medication was not meant to make him competent to stand trial, even if that happens to be a side effect, they argued.

Typically, prisoners must be allowed legal counsel and a detailed court hearing before they can be forced to take medication meant to improve mental health. But prison officials are allowed to forcefully medicate an inmate deemed dangerous without going to court, which is what has happened in Loughner’s case.

Loughner’s lawyer argued Tuesday the medication also is being forced on Loughner to make him mentally fit to stand trial and possibly face the death penalty. Public defender Ellis Johnston III asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the forced medication until a hearing can be held on whether such an involuntary treatment is constitutional.

“They are using the forced medication to attain their goal, which is to have a trial,” Johnston argued.

Johnston also argued that side effects of the drug Loughner takes by mouth daily could interfere with his ability to help lawyers prepare for trial.

Loughner, 23, is appealing a trial court judge’s order that the forced medication continue during a four-month incarceration at a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo. U.S. District Judge Larry Burns last month ordered a second round of treatments at the prison hospital after prosecutors argued Loughner’s mental health is improving and that he can stand trial if the improvements continue.

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