Prison officials in Missouri may keep forcing Jared Lee Loughner to take antipsychotic medications, a judge ruled Wednesday.
At a hastily arranged hearing, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns rejected a defense argument that prison officials are trying to make an "end-run" around legal precedent by forcing him to take medications without a court hearing. Burns instead accepted the judgment of prison officials that Loughner is dangerous to others, and the best way to reduce that danger is by forcing him to take antipsychotics.
A prison doctor "reached an independent judgment that Mr. Loughner is dangerous and needs treatment," Burns said. "I have no reason to disagree with doctors here. I didn't go to medical school."
Burns held court at his usual seat in San Diego, and Loughner's defense attorneys attended the hearing there. Prosecutors attended via a video link to a courtroom at the federal courthouse in Tucson. Loughner, who is at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo., did not attend.
The hearing took place against the backdrop of Burns' May 25 ruling that Loughner's schizophrenia has left him incompetent to stand trial and he therefore must be restored to competency. On June 14, prison officials held a hearing beside Loughner's cell to determine what should be done to reduce his dangerousness to others, and a week later he was forced to take antipsychotic medication.
Defense attorney Reuben Cahn argued that there must be a court hearing before the government can force Loughner to take antipsychotics. Prison officials could have used other means to treat Loughner's dangerousness, such as putting him in restraints, using a "spit guard" or taking away his chair, Cahn said.
"It's clear they're concerned with more than mitigation of danger," Cahn said, suggesting that their real aim is to restore him to competency without a court hearing on their means.
Lead prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst said the prison's only reason for forcing medication on Loughner is to reduce his dangerousness. He pointed to a new email, which arrived Wednesday, detailing two more incidents of chair-throwing by Loughner.
Filings have already revealed two previous times when Loughner threw a plastic chair in his cell and spit at his attorney.
"This document demonstrates that Mr. Loughner continues to be a threat to the people in the institution," Kleindienst said. "He is defiant, and he believes that anybody who believes he did not kill Gabby Giffords is in a conspiracy against him."
At the May 25 hearing, Burns revealed that a psychiatrist and a psychologist separately found Loughner has schizophrenia that causes him delusions and makes it impossible for him to help his defense attorneys.
Loughner is charged with 49 crimes stemming from a mass shooting that left six people dead and 13 wounded at an event hosted by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded.
Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or at firstname.lastname@example.org