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Loughner doesn't want psych interviews videotaped

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Loughner doesn't want psych interviews videotaped

  • Loughner, after his January arrest.
    Pima County Sheriff's Dep'tLoughner, after his January arrest.

Accused Jan. 8 shooter Jared Lee Loughner told a prison psychologist that he doesn't want interviews with her videotaped, even as his lawyers are seeking a court order to have such examinations recorded.

Dr. Christina Pietz, who is treating Loughner at a federal prison hospital in Missouri, told the court Tuesday that Loughner "indicated to me that he did not want to be videotaped."

Pietz, who is working to restore Loughner's ability to stand trial, said in court papers that she questioned Loughner on Monday about videotaping formal interviews with him.

"I do believe that Defendant Loughner will be reluctant to speak with me if he is being videotaped," she said.

Although Loughner has "recently been resistant to speaking with me," Pietz said she would not oppose videotaping "formal competency interviews" as requested by the defense.

Last week, Loughner's attorneys asked the court to order Pietz's competency interviews of the defendant be recorded.

Earlier competency interviews, in March and April, were videotaped and the court found them "helpful to its competency determination," defense attorneys said in court papers.

A request for videotaping all interviews was denied at the end of August, when the court found that extensive videotaping would "impede the work" of Pietz.

Lawyers renewed their request because competency exams are ongoing, they said.

"BOP documents indicate that Dr. Pietz plans a Competency Assessment sometime before November 12," they wrote in their court filing.

"The most recent production of BOP records indicates that Dr. Pietz had an interview on October 17, 2011 discussing 'competency related issues,'" they said.


Loughner is charged with killing six and wounding 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, on Jan. 8 at a "Congress On Your Corner" meet-and-greet with constituents.

Loughner faces 49 federal counts in the shooting; 14 could result in the death penalty.

U.S. District Court Judge Larry Burns, the San Diego judge handling the Jan. 8 shooting case, found Loughner incompetent to stand trial in May, and sent him to a Springfield, Mo., prison hospital for evaluation.

In order to stand trial, defendants must be able to understand the charges against them, and be able to effectively assist their lawyers in their defense.

In September, Burns extended Loughner's stay after the government presented evidence that Loughner could be made competent for trial with further treatment.

Forced medication

Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on whether Loughner should continue to be forcibly medicated.

Defense lawyers argued before a three-judge panel that Loughner should not be compelled to take antipsychotic drugs without a court hearing, and that side effects from the drugs may make him unable to stand trial, and possibly more dangerous.

Loughner's defense team asked the judges to order a court hearing to determine if Loughner should continue to be drugged, now that he is no longer being examined, but is undergoing treatment to restore his ability to stand trial.

Prosecutors told the judges that Lougher, now 23, was declared a danger to himself by prison staff, and that the medications are improving his health.

No hearing is needed, because prison officials can order medication if a prisoner is a danger to himself or others, prosecutors said.

The hearing, which lasted just over an hour, saw the judges—Marsha S. Berzon, J. Clifford Wallace and Jay S. Bybee—sharply question both sides on the issue of a court's role in ordering medication for a mentally ill patient who is being restored to competency.

"What is the effect of the drugs on the likelihood of achieving a fair trial? That is what the court has to address," defense attorney Ellis Johnston told the panel.

Wallace asked why the question shouldn't be considered after Loughner completes another four month of treatment.

The court must question whether the medication creates a substantial chance of endangering Loughner's right to a fair trial, Johnston said.

The regimen of antipsychotic drugs are not making Loughner "less dangerous, and they may be exacerbating his dangerousness," even if they are treating his schizophrenia, he said.

The drugs may be worsening his depression, he said.

Johnston blamed the drugs for the expressionless demeanor Loughner showed at his last court appearance. That flat affect could hurt his fair trial rights, he said.

"It's even worse if the side effects of those drugs will prohibit him from expressing himself appropriately at trial," he said.

Continued forced medication could lead to an "erroneous deprivation of his rights," Johnston said.

"Assuming the drugs are appropriate for dangerousness, what are their effects on a trial?" he asked the judges.

Prosecutors pushed back at the defense's contentions.

Loughner "could revert to being a danger to himself" if the drugs are halted, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Christina Cabanillas.

The defendant is being drugged because he's shown he's a danger to himself, and it is "his mental illness that is the cause of the danger in the hospital setting," she said.

Prison doctors, not judges, are in the best position to determine which medications can make Loughner fit for trial, she said.

Wallace told Johnston that the court needs to "deal with reality rather than speculation," asking him if it wouldn't be better to "wait and see if restoration works."

Berzon and Wallace pointed to a bit of circular reasoning that applies to Loughner's situation: Loughner was sent by a judge to a prison hospital to be made competent to stand trial, but the drugs that may make him competent are being given because he's been determined to be a danger to himself in prison, not because a judge ordered them to make him competent.

"He's only getting the medication because he's committed, and he's committed because he's getting the medication," Berzon said.

"He has no business being there except to get the medication," she said.

"The purpose of the incarceration has changed" after Loughner was ordered back to the hospital, Wallace said.

The appeals court judges didn't indicate when they will issue a ruling. Earlier rulings in the case have been within two weeks of arguments.

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