CHICAGO (Reuters) - Attorneys for Tucson shooting rampage suspect Jared Loughner are challenging a court order that allows prison officials to medicate him against his will.
Loughner was declared in May to be mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges he killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, on January 8 in Tucson.
A federal judge rejected an attempt by Loughner’s attorneys to prohibit Loughner’s forced medication. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then put Loughner’s medication on hold earlier this month, until attorneys could fully litigate an appeal of the lower court ruling.
But the appeals court changed direction last week and allowed Loughner’s forcible medication while the case is on appeal. Prosecutors cited medical reports noting a deterioration in Loughner’s mental condition after medication stopped, which led to him being put on suicide watch at a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri.
A hearing is scheduled for August 30 in San Francisco.
In a court filing late on Wednesday, Loughner’s attorneys argued that prison officials had less intrusive means of mitigating Loughner’s condition, including minor tranquilizers or restraints.
Prison officials should also have given Loughner an opportunity to present witnesses at an administrative hearing on his medication, the filing said.
Loughner pleaded not guilty in March to 49 charges stemming from the shooting, including multiple counts of first-degree murder.
The case in the 9th Circuit is United States of America v. Jared Lee Loughner, 11-10339.
Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Peter Cooney