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Loughner forcibly medicated despite court order, attorneys claim

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Loughner forcibly medicated despite court order, attorneys claim

  • U.S. Marshals Service

Jared Lee Loughner was forcibly given psychotropic drugs by prison officials this week, just six days after a federal court ordered such medication stopped, his attorneys claimed in court filings Thursday.

Prison officials said Loughner had become “an immediate threat to himself” and needed to be re-medicated on an emergency basis, according to the filing. But Loughner’s attorneys accused prison officials of using the emergency claim as a “willful attempt to circumvent judicial supervision of the competency restoration process.”

Loughner is accused in the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting spree that killed six and wounded 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. He is being held in a federal prison in Springfield, Mo., where he is being evaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial on the charges.

His attorneys went to district court in June to stop forced medication of Loughner, but were turned down. They appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which agreed in early July, ordering prison officials to stop administering psychotropic drugs.

The court reiterated that ruling on July 12, but said then that prison officials could use “less intrusive” means, including minor tranquilizers, to treat Loughner if he presented a danger.

After that ruling, prison officials put Loughner on an “unrelenting” 24-hour suicide watch, the filing said, even though his attorneys claim he did not display any suicidal tendencies. Shortly thereafter, Loughner became agitated and sleepless.

On Monday, the filing said, prison officials began administering psychotropic drugs to control what they claimed was an emergency situation. It notified court officials and defense attorneys of the treatment on Tuesday.

Loughner’s attorneys filed an emergency motion Thursday with the appeals court to enforce the July 12 ruling, and to ask the court to require daily reports of Loughner’s medical administrations.

In the emergency petition, Loughner’s attorneys said “a serious question exists as to whether the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) has willfully violated the court’s order.”

The attorneys challenged the claim that the medication is meant to control an emergency situation, because the twice-daily dosages he is receiving are too small for that. They said that while medication is meant to “decrease (Mr. Loughner’s) agitation and induce rest, but this would be short lived and, again, not impact the underlying psychotic illness.”

The twice-daily, 1 milligram dose of risperidone is more typical of long-term treatment, “precisely the medication regime halted by this court’s injunction,” the filing said.

Attorneys for Loughner could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tucson, said prosecutors cannot comment at this time, adding that “we will file our response with the 9th Circuit.”

Prison officials in Springfield said they cannot comment on any information regarding an inmate’s medication or medical history.

A motions attorney at the 9th Circuit said Thursday that the court will most likely hand down a response to the defense filing in about 24 to 48 hours.

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