gavel.jpgLawyers for Jared Loughner, the man accused of killing six people and wounding 13 in a mass shooting in Arizona, will ask a federal appeals court in San Francisco today to halt his forced medication in a prison hospital.

Loughner, 22, is charged with injuring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, and 12 others and killing six people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, in the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson.

He has been found incompetent to stand trial for the time being because of schizophrenia and is being held in the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo.

Loughner is challenging a decision by prison authorities, who concluded he was a danger to others, to medicate him forcibly with antipsychotic drugs. Loughner’s behavior when not medicated has allegedly including throwing chairs in his cell, hallucinating, sobbing uncontrollably and yelling.

His appeal will be heard by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco at 2 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1990 that prison doctors have the authority to administer antipsychotic medications involuntarily to mentally ill inmates who pose a danger.

But Loughner contends that because he is a pretrial detainee, not a convicted inmate, he is entitled to have any decision on forced medication made by a court rather than in an administrative proceeding.

His lawyers also contend that less intrusive drugs, such as tranquilizers, could be used instead of powerful antipsychotics.

Federal prosecutors reject both arguments and want the court to allow the medication, which began in July, to continue.

The prosecutors wrote in a brief, “The legitimate interest of a prison to maintain safety and security is the same whether the inmate is a pretrial detainee or a convicted prisoner.”

“A dangerous inmate is a danger regardless of the stage of his criminal case,” the federal attorneys wrote.

The appeals court panel may take the case under consideration after hearing arguments and issue a written ruling at a later date.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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