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Loughner writes to judge about defense team

Jared Loughner, accused in the Jan. 8 mass shooting, sent two letters to a judge about his relationship with his defense attorneys, according to a court document filed Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered that copies of the letters be provided to Loughner's defense team, but not be turned over to prosecutors.

Burns did not disclose the contents of the letters, but said they were sent recently and "the subject matter pertains to the attorney-client relationship."

Loughner's legal team is headed by San Diego attorney Judy Clarke, noted for her involvement in high-profile cases. She defended "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, and terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, among others.

Clarke argued against moving Loughner to Missouri in March to undergo a competency exam, saying it could harm the attorney-client relationship. Burns ordered Loughner moved over Clarke's objections.

In another order Wednesday, Burns said that he has received competency reports on Loughner from two doctors hired by the government, Christina Pietz and Matthew Carroll.

Attorneys have until Monday to decide if they want to question the doctors at a May 25 competency hearing, Burns said.

That hearing will determine Lougher's ability to understand the charges against him and participate in his defense. The hearing will not address his mental state at the time of the shootings.

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In March, the 22-year-old Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in the Jan. 8 attack that killed six and wounded 13 others. Authorities charge the shooting incident was an assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head.

Giffords, shot through her brain, is undergoing rehab at a Houston hospital as she recovers. The other 12 who survived being shot were released from the hospital.

Not guilty pleas were entered on Loughner's 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.

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