PHOENIX – Lawyers for the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage say prison officials have resumed forcibly medicating their client with a psychotropic drug.
Jared Lee Loughner's attorneys in filings Thursday questioned whether the forced medication violates an earlier order by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that forbid them from involuntarily medicating Loughner as the court mulls an appeal on his behalf.
The filings say officials at the federal prison facility in Missouri resumed the forced medication on an emergency basis because Loughner had become an immediate threat to himself.
Loughner's attorneys say their client has been on 24-hour suicide watch, but he denies having suicidal thoughts.
He has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the January mass shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In a July 12 ruling, the appeals court said Loughner's interest in not suffering the risk of side effects from powerful drugs is stronger than the government's interest in protecting Loughner and those around him in prison. But it noted that authorities can take steps to maintain the safety of prison officials, other inmates or Loughner, including forcibly giving him tranquilizers.
The court's order also said Loughner didn't pose a danger to himself.
Loughner had previously been forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1 at the federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo., after prison officials determined his outbursts there posed a danger to others.
In the latest round of forced medication, Loughner was given twice daily dose of an oral solution of Risperidone, a drug used for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe behavior problems.
His lawyers say their client faced a threat of being injected with Haloperidol -- an antipsychotic drug used to treat schizophrenia and Tourette syndrome -- if he refused to take the other drug orally.
The appeals court is considering the larger question of whether the decision to forcibly medicate Loughner with psychotropic drugs can be made by prison officials or a judge.
Loughner's attorneys have argued that the decision to forcibly medicate their client solely on the basis of an administrative hearing by prison officials had violated his due-process rights.
Prosecutors have said the appeal is without merit because Loughner's attorneys are asking the lower court judge to substitute his ruling on whether Loughner poses a danger while in prison with the conclusions of mental health professionals.