SAN DIEGO – A federal judge said Friday he will allow prison doctors to continue forcibly medicating the man accused in the deadly Arizona shooting rampage, to prevent the man from hurting himself.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled after hearing arguments on a request by Jared Lee Loughner's defense team to halt the pychotropic medications.
The judge rejected a similar request by Loughner's attorneys in late June. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeal halted the medication but later allowed it to resume after prison officials determined Loughner's outbursts there posed a danger.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at a meet-and-greet event held by the congresswoman outside a Tucson grocery store.
Loughner has been at a federal prison facility in Springfield, Mo., since late May after mental health experts determined he suffers from schizophrenia. A judge ruled him mentally unfit to stand trial.
Loughner was forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1. The prison resumed his forced medication on July 19.
On Friday, Burns said he didn't want to second-guess the decision by doctors at the Missouri prison that Loughner's forcible medication should resume. The doctors found Loughner's condition significantly deteriorated in the three weeks after the appeals court halted his medication.
Loughner kept himself awake for 50 hours straight before medications resumed, Burns said. He cried and walked in his cell until he had sores on his feet.
Burns said the decision to resume medication "seems entirely appropriate and reasonable to me" to prevent Loughner from hurting himself.
Loughner's attorneys also are fighting the forced medication at the 9th Circuit. The key question is whether prison officials or a judge should decide whether a mentally ill person who poses a danger in prison should be forcibly medicated. Prosecutors say the decision is for prison officials to make, while Loughner's lawyers say it's up to a judge.
The appeals court will hold a hearing Tuesday over Loughner's forced medication.