(Updates with government attorney in fifth paragraph.)
Aug. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Attorneys for Jared Lee Loughner, charged with killing six people and trying to assassinate U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, asked a federal appeals court to overturn a judge’s ruling that their client can be forcibly medicated.
Loughner “is not a convicted felon,” Reuben Cahn, his attorney, said at a hearing today before the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. “The state doesn’t have him in long term custody and he has fair trial rights that are outstanding” and may be grievously harmed by the involuntary medication, Cahn said.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in San Diego denied a request by Loughner’s lawyer in June to prevent prison doctors from giving him anti-psychotic drugs against his will. Burns said prison officials complied with the procedural requirements for medicating him.
Loughner’s lawyers said doctors at the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, where their client is held, had decided to give him psychotropic drugs against his will because he was found to be a danger to others. The doctors based their decision on Loughner having thrown a plastic chair in his cell and having spat on his attorney more than two months before, the lawyers said in a filing.
Evidence presented by the prison in an administrative proceeding showed that Loughner was a danger to the prison and to himself, Christina Cabanillas, a Justice Department attorney, told a three-judge panel at today’s hearing.
Safety and Stability
The prison’s interest in safety and stability trumps an inmate’s right to decline medication, whether the action was taken before or after a trial, Cabanillas said.
Judges on the panel said it was unclear whether they were supposed to decide if prison rules on forced medication were unconstitutional or craft guidelines for an administrative procedure to challenge prison doctor decisions about the practice. They didn’t say when they would issue a ruling.
Giffords, a Democrat, was among 13 wounded in a Jan. 8 shooting rampage outside a Tucson, Arizona, supermarket where she was holding a community meeting. Bystanders wrestled the suspect to the ground. Giffords survived a gunshot wound through her head. U.S. District Judge John Roll was among those killed.
Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges in federal court.
In May, Burns ruled that Loughner, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was incompetent to stand trial and ordered him to be treated in prison for four months or until doctors determine he is mentally competent to help in his defense.
The case is U.S. v. Loughner, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco).
--Editors: Peter Blumberg, Andrew Dunn
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