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Loughner can be forced to take medication, judge rules

Anti-psychotic drugs OK; accused shooter doesn't believe Giffords survived

Jared Loughner, the accused Jan. 8 gunman, can be forced to take medication by prison officials, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. Loughner was determined to be a danger to himself and others by prison officials, doesn't believe Giffords survived.

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6 comments on this story

Jun 29, 2011, 10:39 pm
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To force drugs upon him is the most expedient road to his being brought back to a legally acceptable degree of competency to stand trial.
Predictable that the defense team does not want him to be medicated, to stave off his standing trial.
Interesting that he is not so incompetent that he willingly accepts medication. Obviously, he is aware that his personal interests are best served by refusing medication.

Jun 30, 2011, 6:25 am
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“He refused to voluntarily take drugs meant to restore him to competency to stand trial.”

I’m not a mental health professional, but this just seems wrong to me. Anti-psychotic drugs may ameliorate Loughner’s behavior, but they won’t/can’t cure any psychosis he may have.

If he’s mentally incompetent to stand trial, there are no drugs that can change that. There may be drugs that can persuade him to sit quietly while the legal system persuades itself that justice is being done, but he’s either legally sane or insane, as I see it, and responsible for his actions or not.

Jun 30, 2011, 7:08 am
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There is a broad difference between competency to stand trial, and being declared sane/insane, which is another judicial undertaking.
There are drugs/medications that can ameliorate various classifications of psychoses, that are not just tranquilizers, that may be used so that the individual has an awareness and at least basic understanding of what is occurring during the judicial process, which simply defined is the ability to stand trial.
I believe that is the goal of the attempt on the part of the prosecution to force Loughner to use the drugs/medications, rather than curing him permanently of any psychoses he may be experiencing.
That is the reason the defense attorneys do not want him to be drugged/medicated against his will.
For me, that is the pivotal point of this matter. If the individual is judged by the defense to have awareness and will not to be medicated/drugged, then arguably he does have at least some awareness and free will.
My curiosity is whether his obvious demonstration of will against agreeing to being drugged might be considered tacit demonstration of at least basic awareness and basic understanding of where the effects of being successfully drugged will lead = to trial.
I do understand that many, if not most, hospitalized psychotic patients are at least at first unwilling to be medicated, so that typical response may inhibit any interpretation of this being a basic understanding of causal relationship. 
At first glance, the process might seem invasive, even barbaric to Loughner ( who committed atrocities far more barbaric, cruel and invasive). But when the means to a legal end are in place and it will not be cruel and unusual punishment ( prior to trial) meted to him ( those who are hospitalized for similar mental/emotional states of being are also often unwillingly medicated, and this is not considered punishment), then the process should move forward, so that the trial can begin if the medications/drugs are successful. If they are not, Then the process for declaring him incompetent to stand trial can begin. One way or another, justice must be served.

Jun 30, 2011, 1:17 pm
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Thanks for your reply, Quietwoman2. I guess I just don’t see much difference in “competency to stand trial” and “sane/insane”, and it seems to me that someone who is “insane” is not competent to stand trial, or at least do much more at trial than sit there, medicated to the eyeballs, while other run around convincing themselves than justice has been done.

There isn’t really much argument about what Loughner did, nor that he will be found “guilty” of those acts and locked away for the rest of his life, so to my mind, “justice” (as the system sees it) will be done.

But I disagree with this: “If the individual is judged by the defense to have awareness and will not to be medicated/drugged, then arguably he does have at least some awareness and free will.”

A chimpanzee has plenty of awareness and free will, and will throw his feces at you if he’s not happy. There’s a big difference, though, between that and understanding what is morally right and wrong, and what is legally right and wrong.

Even the most marginally sentient human being may not want to eat a banana right now, and may refuse it (perhaps by throwing it at your head). That doesn’t say to me that person is “competent” to do anything more in a courtroom than sit and drool.

Just saying I don’t really get it ... anyone who would commit the acts Loughner did (with his supposed - lack of - motive) is to my mind “insane”.

He will be convicted of those crimes regardless, and the justice system convicts people in absentia all the time.

Jun 30, 2011, 3:28 pm
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@Roberto De Vido

The short version: the distinction between competency for trial and sanity isn’t an easy one to explain, but here goes….

Competency is about current mental state. Sanity is about a defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime.

Being competent for trial means a defendant understands the nature of the charges and trial, and can assist counsel in their defense.

It’s entirely possible to be competent for trial and present an insanity defense.

At the federal level (state laws vary):

It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under any Federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense.” (18 U.S.C. § 17)

And there are many cases that show it’s possible to be found incompetent for trial, have that competency restored, and fail to present clean and convincing evidence of insanity.

Jun 30, 2011, 3:41 pm
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Okay, gotcha. Seems to make sense, thanks.

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