TUCSON, Ariz. – A federal court Friday night denied an emergency motion by defense lawyers to keep prison officials in Missouri from forcibly medicating the Tucson shooting rampage suspect with a psychotropic drug.
In a one-page ruling, judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also denied a request by Jared Lee Loughner's attorneys for daily reports about his condition at a federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo.
The judges said their denial is without prejudice to the defense seeking appropriate relief in the district court. The 9th Circuit had previously scheduled an Aug. 30 hearing in San Francisco on an appeal by Loughner's lawyers over forced medication. It wasn't immediately clear if that hearing will still be held.
Calls to lead Loughner attorney Judy Clarke for comment Friday night weren't immediately returned.
Federal prosecutors said in a filing earlier Friday that Loughner should remain medicated because he may be a danger to himself and his mental and physical condition was rapidly deteriorating.
Loughner's attorneys questioned Thursday whether the forced medication violates an earlier order by the 9th Circuit that forbid prison officials from involuntarily medicating Loughner as the court mulls an appeal on his behalf. They also said their client has been on 24-hour suicide watch.
U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke wrote in his filing Friday that "despite being under suicide watch, Loughner's unmedicated behavior is endangering him and that no measure short of medication will protect him from himself more than temporarily because they do not address the mental state which underlies his self-destructive actions."
Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the Jan. 8 shooting spree that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
He's been at the Springfield facility since May 27 after a federal judge concluded he was mentally unfit to help in his legal defense.
Mental health experts have determined Loughner suffers from schizophrenia and will try to make him psychologically fit to stand trial. He's expected to spend up to four months at the Missouri prison.
Loughner was forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1 after prison officials determined his outbursts there posed a danger to others. He was given twice daily doses of Risperidone, a drug used for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe behavior problems.
In a July 12 ruling, the appeals court upheld an earlier order that the treatments cease, saying Loughner's interest in not suffering the risk of side effects from powerful drugs is stronger than the government's interest in protecting him and those around him. But the ruling noted that authorities can take steps to maintain the safety of prison officials, other inmates and Loughner, including forcibly giving him tranquilizers.
The decision to resume involuntarily treating Loughner on an emergency basis came Monday after it was determined that he had become an immediate threat to himself, according to court documents.
If Loughner is later determined to be competent enough for trial, the court proceedings will resume. If he isn't deemed competent at the end of his treatment, Loughner's stay at the facility can be extended.
Loughner's lawyers haven't said whether they intend to present an insanity defense, but they have noted in court filings that his mental condition will likely be a central issue at trial.
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