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Courts OKs Forced Medication for Jared Lee Loughner

By Robyn Hagan Cain on March 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that the Bureau of Prisons may continue to forcibly medicate Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner with antipsychotic drugs, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In a 2-1 decision, the appellate court approved forced medication for Loughner because he poses a threat to himself and others.

The majority noted, "It is clear that Loughner has a severe mental illness, that he represents a danger to himself or others, and that the prescribed medication is appropriate and in his medical interest. There was no arbitrariness in the district court's order denying the motion to enjoin Loughner's emergency treatment. He may be involuntarily medicated."

Judge Marsha Berzon, the lone dissenter on the panel, disagreed. Judge Berzon claimed that forcing Loughner to take psychotropic drugs might ultimately infringe on his rights to a fair trial, reports Thomson Reuters News & Insight. Berzon wrote, "Assuming Loughner will put on an insanity defense, manifestations in court of how his mind works may well be his own best evidence."

Loughner was committed to a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) medical facility in 2011 to determine if he was competent to stand trial. After the medical staff concluded that he was not competent, the district court ordered him committed for a period of four months to determine if he could be restored to competency. While he was in custody, the facility determined that Loughner was a danger to himself or others and conducted hearings -- referred to as Harper hearings -- to determine if he could be involuntarily medicated.

Jared Lee Loughner is accused of murdering of six people in January 2011, including U.S. District Judge John Roll. He is also accused of the attempted murder of 13 others, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner has pleaded not guilty.

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