Court clears way for Loughner's return to Missouri
Saturday, October 8, 2011
PHOENIX (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage can be returned to a Missouri prison facility where he will undergo more treatment to try to make him mentally fit to stand trial.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by Jared Lee Loughner's attorneys to keep him in Tucson. Loughner's lawyers want him to stay in Arizona while they appeal a lower court's ruling that extends their mentally ill client's stay at a Springfield, Mo., prison by another four months.
On Friday evening, the 9th Circuit issued an expedited briefing order for the appeal and scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 1 in San Francisco.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns extended the treatment last week when he concluded that Loughner can probably be made psychologically ready for trial.
The appeals court in San Francisco said Loughner's attorneys haven't demonstrated any irreparable harm that's likely to come if he is returned to Missouri. It wasn't clear Friday when the U.S. Marshals Service would transport Loughner.
Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit temporarily blocked the government's plan to bring Loughner back to Missouri, but Friday's ruling lifts that temporary order and opens the door for his trip to Springfield.
Loughner, 23, has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Before coming to Arizona for the lower court's hearing last week, Loughner had spent four months at a Missouri facility where experts have been trying to make him mentally fit to stand trial. Prison officials have forcibly medicated Loughner with psychotropic drugs for more than 60 days.
Even though Loughner has been away from the Missouri facility since Sept. 26, authorities have continued to medicate him based on the prison's conclusion that he poses a danger to himself.
Loughner's attorneys asked the appeals court to block his transfer back to Missouri, arguing that the order extending his mental health treatment there was legally erroneous.
The defense lawyers also noted that the psychologist who is treating Loughner believed bringing him to Tucson was therapeutic. His family has visited him while he has been in Arizona.
Prosecutors opposed Loughner's effort to remain in Tucson and defended Burns' ruling, arguing that defense lawyers weren't likely to succeed in their appeal.
On Wednesday, Loughner's lead attorney Judy Clarke again voiced concerns about her client's forced medication without judicial authorization or a Sell hearing.
But prosecutors responded Friday that since Loughner is being "lawfully medicated," a Sell medication order isn't needed or required at this time.