Sept. 29 (Bloomberg) -- A federal judged ordered four more months of psychiatric treatment for Jared Loughner, the suspect in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, that left six people including a U.S. judge dead.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns yesterday gave prison psychologists the extension to try to render Loughner, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, mentally competent to face trial on charges of murder and the attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords at a community meeting outside a supermarket.
Loughner, 23, has been involuntarily medicated with anti- psychotic drugs and confined to a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Burns ruled in May that Loughner was incompetent to stand trial and ordered him to be treated for four months or until doctors determined he was mentally able to help in his defense.
Burns said yesterday at the hearing in Tucson that he wants to see “measurable progress, more than I’ve seen here today.”
The judge said that he has “good cause” to believe forced medication should continue based on testimony that, if Loughner were taken off the drugs, he would deteriorate. Burns also said that his observations of Loughner in court corresponded with testimony that he is improving.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was among 13 people wounded in the Jan. 8 shooting rampage before 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.
A Bureau of Prisons psychologist who has been treating Loughner testified at yesterday’s hearing that the defendant knows that Giffords is alive and that he has murdered people. Loughner has expressed remorse, said Dr. Christina Pietz. Loughner is still delusional and depressed but improving with medication, said Pietz, who said she expects the improvement to continue.
“He is remorseful. He feels guilty,” Pietz said. “I’m not sure medication is going to help him with that.”
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder charges.
Pietz also testified that Loughner has seen a video taken from a security camera at the Safeway in front of which the shooting took place and that he believes it was edited by law enforcement or his attorneys or is a “re-enactment.” As long as Loughner believes the video was altered, she could not consider him competent to stand trial, Pietz said.
Reuben Camper Cahn, one of his Loughner’s lawyers, declined to comment after the hearing.
Loughner entered the courtroom yesterday wearing a white T- shirt and tan pants, handcuffed and shackled. Unlike in previous courtroom appearances, he didn’t grin or smirk, which Pietz said indicates how medication has improved schizophrenic tics that caused inappropriate behavioral responses.
Loughner’s parents sat in a back row, accompanied by an attorney.
The case is U.S. v. Loughner, 11-00187, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Tucson).
--Editors: Michael Hytha, Andrew Dunn
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