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Judge: Give Loughner medical records to competency expert

A federal judge ordered that the medical records of accused January 8 shooter Jared Lee Loughner be turned over to the psychologist conducting a competency examination.

Over defense objections, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered the records be provided to Dr. Christina Pietz in last week's ruling, which was made public Wednesday.

Pietz is trying to determine if Loughner is able to stand trial, including if he understands the charges against him and if he can assist in his defense.

Defense attorneys had argued against releasing the records, saying that giving them to the government could jeopardize Loughner's rights at trial. They requested an order declaring that the records could only be used for the competency hearing.

Burns ruled that "the defense already has the Court’s assurances that it will not allow impermissible use to be made of the medical records outside of the competency proceedings."

The records at issue include documents from Dr. Henry Bianchi, Loughner's pediatrician; Sonora Behavioral Health, which treated him for extreme intoxication on May 12, 2006; and Northwest Medical Center Urgent Care, where the prosecution says Loughner was treated around May 14, 2004.

Burns ruled that Pietz, and the psychiatrist conducting a second competency exam, Dr. Matthew Carroll, should be given the records.

Loughner was flown to a federal medical facility in Springfield, Mo., in March. Defense attorneys had argued that his exam be conducted in either Tucson or San Diego, where his defense team and Judge Burns live.

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A hearing on Loughner's fitness for trial is scheduled for May 25.

Accused faces 49 federal charges

In March, Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt at a Jan. 8 meet and greet with constituents. Six were killed and 13 wounded in the mass shooting, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf by the court.

Fourteen of the charges Loughner faces could result in the death penalty, if the prosecution seeks it. No decision of whether to ask for capital punishment has been made, authorities have said.

Loughner will likely face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said.

Giffords still in rehab after shooting

Giffords is still recovering from a gunshot to the brain.

She was moved to a Houston rehab facility two weeks after being wounded. Doctors have said her recovery is "remarkable."

She flew to Florida on Wednesday in preparation to watch her husband, Cap. Mark Kelly, blast off on the space shuttle Endeavour on Friday.

Giffords is "doing remarkably well," her husband said at a NASA press conference last month.

"She's improving every day," Kelly said. "She's starting to walk, talk more, more every day."

"She's starting to process some of the tragedy, that we all went through in January—she's going through that as we speak," he said.

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"Despite that, she remains in a very good mood."

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Loughner