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Loughner sent to Missouri for psych exam

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Loughner sent to Missouri for psych exam

Judge blocks release of sheriff's investigative records

  • Loughner
    U.S. Marshals ServiceLoughner

Jared Lee Loughner, accused in the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson, was sent to Missouri on Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service said.

Loughner was taken to a federal Medical Referral Center in Springfield, Mo., where the government intends to determine his fitness for trial, confirmed U.S. Marshal Thomas Henman.

Defense attorneys objected to the transfer, and filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

Attorneys objected to an order by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns that laid out the logistics of a competency exam for Loughner.

The defense and prosecutors were unable to agree on how to determine if Loughner is competent to stand trial, so the judge issued an order Monday allowing the government to examine him in Missouri.

Burns also granted the defense the opportunity to conduct its own competency exam.

"The question at issue is whether the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, or to assist properly in his defense.... The scope of the examination shall accordingly be limited to whether Mr. Loughner is presently competent to stand trial; the examination shall not focus on the defendant's sanity at the time of the alleged offense, nor shall the examination purposefully attempt to explore potential aggravating or mitigating sentencing factors in this case," Burns' order read.

The defense objected to the transfer to Missouri, saying that Loughner should be examined in Tucson. They also asked the appeals court to block the Bureau of Prisons from providing videotapes of the examinations to the prosecution, saying that would violate Loughner's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

"The defense interests at stake include the ability to maintain the attorney-client relationship and ensure access to counsel, the privilege against compelled self-incrimination, and the right to maintain the confidentiality of defense work-product," the defense said in a motion.

"Videotaping is for the protection of the defendant faced with a compelled psychiatric evaluation in a criminal case. It is not a tool for use by the government in seeking a capital conviction and sentence of death," lead defender Judy Clarke wrote.

Prosecutors asked the court to drop the requirement that compentency exams be videotaped in a filing on Wednesday.

“After specifically requesting videotaping of the competency evaluation, the defendant now has buyer’s remorse about this request,” prosecutor Beverly Anderson said in a court filing.

Prosecutors told Burns that the defense offered no legal basis for delaying an exam, and asked that he not grant the defense request to put it off.

Records release blocked

In a separate order Wednesday, Burns blocked the release of investigative documents by the Pima County Sheriff's Department.

Media organizations, including the Washington Post, had asked the department to release records related to the shooting investigation.

Agreeing with the prosecution, Burns wrote that Loughner's fair trial rights outweigh Arizona's public records law.

"The public vetting of crime scene photos, witness accounts, investigatory conclusions, and other raw evidence would invite trial of this case in the press rather than in court. This prospect poses a substantial threat to the defendant’s constitutional right to be tried fairly by an impartial jury," Burns wrote.

The Sheriff's Department has "250 audio recordings of witness interviews; 1,630 pages of transcriptions of these interviews; 403 pages of PCSO (sic) reports; 100-200 crime scene photographs; 241 pages of evidence control forms; 63 pages of computer-assisted dispatch reports; 7 pages of property release forms; 13 pages of notes; and 5 pages of tow truck requests," Burns said.

Earlier this month, the court entered a not guilty plea on Loughner's behalf on the 49 federal counts he faces. He is charged with killing 6 and wounding 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at a Jan. 8 constituent meet and greet at a Northwest Side grocery store.

Giffords, who was shot through the brain, is undergoing rehab at a Houston facility.

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.

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