Oct 26, 2011 2:00 AM
PHOENIX - A federal judge on Tuesday turned down a request by lawyers for the Tucson shooting rampage suspect to hold a special hearing regarding his forced medication.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns wrote in his ruling that 23-year-old Jared Lee Loughner is being forced to take psychotropic drugs at a Missouri prison facility because he poses a danger to himself.
So far, the decision to medicate Loughner has been made by prison officials at the Springfield, Mo., facility where experts are trying to make him psychologically fit to stand trial.
Loughner's defense attorneys had argued that the issue should be up to a judge and wanted Burns to consider the matter.
Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson that killed six people and injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.
Loughner has been found to be mentally unfit for trial, but his treating psychologist has said his condition has improved since he has been given medication. In late September, Burns ruled that it's probable that Loughner will be made mentally fit and extended his four-month stay in Missouri by another four months.
Also this week, prosecutors asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a filing late Monday to reject requests by Loughner's lawyers to halt his forced medication and rescind his stay at the Springfield facility.
That was in response to a filing by Loughner's lawyers last week. They told the appeals court that Burns failed to fully consider possible negative side effects from his forced medication or put a limit on his future dosage. They also argued that that there's no evidence he can be made mentally fit for trial in the next four months.
The Monday filing by prosecutors said Burns made the correct call in extending Loughner's stay in Missouri. They said Christina Pietz, a psychologist who has been treating Loughner, has testified that Loughner is improving and hasn't experienced side effects from the drugs.
Loughner's medications include the sedative Lorazepam, the antidepressant Wellbutrin, and Risperidone, a drug used for people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe behavior problems.