More mental hospital commitment for Jared Loughner put on hold
A federal appeals court panel has temporarily halted a judge's order that would have sent Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner back to a prison mental hospital for another four months of treatment.
The emergency motions panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals late Tuesday blocked the 23-year-old's transfer back to a federal prison mental hospital in Missouri until it can hear fresh arguments from both Loughner's lawyers and the government.
U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns ruled last week that Loughner could be returned to the Missouri facility for additional efforts to restore his mental competency, and that prison doctors could continue to forcibly medicate him with anti-psychotic drugs.
Loughner faces 49 felony charges stemming from the Jan. 8 rampage outside a Tucson supermarket that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In May, the judge deemed Loughner incompetent to assist in his own defense and granted a government request that he be sent to the Springfield, Mo., prison hospital for a period of treatment that ended last month. Loughner had been sent to the Missouri facility for evaluation shortly after the shootings and was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia and delusions.
Loughner's lawyers contend that forcibly medicating him violates his constitutional rights because he has not been convicted of any crime and as a pretrial detainee retains the right to refuse drugs he fears could harm him.
The 9th Circuit panel ordered Burns' court to provide a transcript of last week's hearing by Friday and called on both sides to be prepared to provide oral argument in a teleconference within 24 hours of the transcript's delivery.
Loughner was brought from Missouri to a federal detention facility in Tucson for the hearing before Burns last week. His attorneys have asked that he remain there while the appeals court considers the legal challenge to his involuntary treatment.
Loughner remains in federal custody in Arizona, said Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix.
-- Carol J. Williams
Illustration: Courtroom sketch of Jared Lee Loughner. Credit: Associated Press