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Judge nixes Loughner videotape move

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Judge nixes Loughner videotape move

Federal prison staffers are not required to videotape their interactions with accused Jan. 8 gunman Jared Loughner, a federal judge ruled.

Denying a defense request, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled against "videotaping of all clinical assessments" of Loughner at the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, Mo.

"(T)here is no legal authority requiring the Court to order that the clinical assessments be videotaped," Burns wrote in an order filed Thursday morning.

Burns said that while he may have the discretion to order video to be taken, he had 3 reasons for not exercising it:

  • "First, the defendant's original competency examination was videotaped, and this was apparently very distracting to the defendant and a hindrance to the FMC staff conducting the examination."
  • "Second, the uncertain duration of the defendant's present commitment to FMC, coupled with the extensive attention and care he is now receiving because of his mental condition, would make videotaping all clinical assessments a substantial imposition on the work of the FMC staff."
  • "Third, the videotaping of the defendant's original competency examination was largely a concession to the defense's skepticism, which the Court explicitly rejected and for which there is no evidence, of the impartiality of the FMC staff."

Prison staff may use video if they wish, but are not required to do so, Burns said:

"If the staff believes videotaping its clinical assessments of the defendant would serve a useful purpose, and it is willing to accommodate the defendant's request, this Order does not bar it from doing so."

6 killed, 13 wounded

Loughner, 22, is accused of killing six, including a nine-year-old girl, and shooting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head in what authorities charge was an assassination attempt.

He also is charged with wounding 12 others at the "Congress On Your Corner" meet and greet with constituents at a Northwest Side grocery store on the morning of Jan. 8.

He was found incompetent to stand trial in May, and was sent to a federal facility in Missouri for treatment to restore his ability to understand the charges against him and participate in his defense.

In March, Loughner was charged with 49 federal counts in the attack. Not guilty pleas were entered on his 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 likely will face local charges in the shooting incident, authorities have said, but only after the federal case is resolved

Giffords' condition

In her first vote since she was shot through the head Jan. 8, Giffords cast her "aye" for the debt-ceiling compromise bill on Monday.

Giffords received a standing ovation as she entered the House of Representatives for the first time since Congress opened in January.

The vote was almost immediately overshadowed by Giffords’ surprise appearance as she was mobbed by colleagues on the floor and she recognized the outpouring of emotion. The ovation lasted well over a minute.

Giffords has made public appearances only in controlled circumstances, and has not spoken in public since the shooting.

A statement released by her office Monday is the first attributed directly to the congresswoman since Jan. 8. All other press releases since the shooting have been credited to her staff.

The 41-year-old congresswoman made a surprise public appearance at a NASA event in June, where her husband, Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, was being honored. The astronaut has announced that he would retire from the military, and that he isn't interested in running for the seat held by retiring U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl. The couple have a book deal in the works, he said.

The congresswoman made a weekend trip back to Tucson for Father's Day. She has not made an official public appearance, spoken to constituents, or released a statement in her own name since the shooting.

Nearly six months after she was shot through the brain, Giffords struggled to communicate, an aide told a columnist for the Arizona Republic in June.

Giffords searches for words and has trouble putting sentences together, said the congresswoman's chief of staff, Pia Carusone, in a piece by E.J. Montini.

Speaking directly about Giffords' condition and when she might make a public appearance for the first time since the Jan. 8 shooting that claimed the lives of six others, Carusone said Giffords' "communication skills have been impacted the most."

"If you think of it as someone who is able to communicate with you clearly, it is easy to test them. You can ask them a series of questions and you can get clear answers back. Where as with Gabby what we've been able to infer and what we believe is that her comprehension is very good. I don't know about percentage-wise or not, but it's close to normal if not normal."

Giffords is relying on expressions and gestures, rather than speaking, to completely convey her thoughts, Carusone said.

"She is borrowing upon other ways of communicating. Her words are back more and more now, but she's still using facial expressions as a way to express. Pointing. Gesturing. Add it all together and she's able to express the basics of what she wants or needs. But when it comes to a bigger and more complex thought that requires words, that's where she's had the trouble."

After an operation on her skull in May, Carusone told reporters that Giffords' speech was improving, and that she understood abstract concepts.

Giffords "understands, if not everything, close to everything" when presented with complex concepts, Carusone said in May. Giffords is "absolutely curious" about current events, she said.

"She understands sarcastic humor," she said. "Her voice sounds very normal, it sounds as it did before the shooting," she said.

"She's able to fluctuate her volume level" and express being light-hearted or serious with the quality of her voice, Carusone said.

"Her speech is getting better with the constant therapy she's doing."

Giffords was shot through the left side of her brain, which controls speech and language.

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