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U.S. district judge to hear arguments over Loughner's medications

Friday, August 26, 2011 | 1:21 p.m. CDT; updated 2:23 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 26, 2011

SAN DIEGO — Attorneys for the Tucson shooting rampage suspect are making another attempt to stop the forced medication of their client at the Missouri prison facility where mental health experts are trying to make him psychologically fit to stand trial.

A federal judge will hear arguments Friday over a request by Jared Lee Loughner's defense team to halt the pychotropic drug medications.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns rejected a similar request by Loughner's attorneys in late June. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals halted the medication but later allowed it to resume after prison officials determined Loughner's outbursts there posed a danger.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

He has been at a federal prison facility in Springfield since late May after mental health experts determined he suffers from schizophrenia. A judge ruled him mentally unfit to stand trial.

He was forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1. The prison resumed his forced medication on July 19.

Loughner's attorneys are fighting the forced medication in both Burns' court and at the 9th Circuit. The key question is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether a mentally ill person who poses a danger in prison should be forcibly medicated. Prosecutors say the decision is for prison officials to make, while Loughner's lawyers say it's up to a judge.

The appeals court will hold an Aug. 30 hearing over Loughner's forced medication.

Burns also will hear arguments Friday over prosecutors' allegations that Loughner's lawyers broke court rules by issuing subpoenas for a lease from an apartment complex where Loughner once lived, and for birth and death records for some of Loughner's relatives.

Prosecutors say the subpoena was issued without court approval and without giving copies to the government.

Prosecutors revealed that Loughner's attorneys issued nearly two dozen subpoenas for birth and death records of his maternal relatives. A relative of Loughner later said a defense team member came to her Texas home to talk about mental health problems suffered by relatives.

Prosecutors want Loughner's attorneys to provide an inventory of all the subpoenas they issued. They also asked the judge to throw out subpoenas that didn't comply with court rules.

Loughner's attorneys argued they got court approval for the subpoenas.

The judge will consider a request by defense attorneys to have their client's clinical assessments at the prison videotaped. They argue such recordings would likely have evidentiary value and help safeguard his constitutional rights.

Prosecutors, who oppose the request, said that Loughner's attorneys have given no better reason for its videotaping request since Burns first rejected it about three weeks ago.

The hearing will be held in the San Diego courthouse where Burns is based. Burns was appointed to hear the case after all federal judges in Arizona recused themselves because one of the six people who died in the shooting was John Roll, the chief federal judge for Arizona.


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