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Loughner still incompetent for trial, hearing set

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Loughner still incompetent for trial, hearing set

Attorneys sign on to motion to extend commitment

A government psychologist said accused Jan. 8 gunman Jared Lee Loughner is still incompetent to stand trial, according to a Thursday order from a federal judge.

While Loughner's mental state is improving, Dr. Christina Pietz said he should remain in a prison hospital for another four months, according to an order setting a hearing on the matter for next Monday. 

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns scheduled a hearing for 1:15 p.m. Monday (Tucson time) in San Diego that will determine if Loughner should remain in a federal prison medical facility in Missouri, where Pietz has been treating him.

It's likely that Burns will order that Loughner remain; his attorneys signed onto a motion by the government to extend Loughner's commitment. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said they would offer no other evidence than Pietz's Jan. 25 competency report on Loughner.

Loughner has been at the Springfield, Mo., hospital since shortly after his arrest. His latest four-month stay there was set to expire next Wednesday.

While Burns revealed little about the recent evaluation by Pietz, he said in his order that she reported "the defendant remains incompetent to stand trial, in particular because he lacks an adequate understanding of the nature and consequences of the charges against him."

Pietz did say that "the defendant has made measurable progress toward competency and that his mental state will continue to improve," Burn wrote.

Loughner cannot stand trial until the court determines that he is able to understand the charges against him, and can assist his lawyers in his own defense.

Burns set the hearing despite both defense and prosecution stating that they were not requesting one. He said in his order that his
"inclination is to extend the defendant’s commitment by another four months."

The judge ordered that Loughner not be moved from the Missouri prison hospital for the hearing.

Loughner faces 49 federal charges in what authorities allege was an assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Six were killed and 13 wounded in the attack, including Giffords, who recently resigned from Congress to focus on her recovery.

Fourteen of the charges against Loughner could result in the death penalty.

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