Posted on July 7, 2011 at 10:07 PM
Thursday, Jul 7 at 10:17 PM
CALIFORNIA - A federal appeals court in California heard arguments Thursday about whether Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner should be forcibly medicated.
Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a "Congress on your Corner" event in Tucson in January.
A judge declared him incompetent to stand trial so the case against him is on hold.
At issue now is whether doctors can give him anti-psychotic drugs against his will.
The defense says Loughner's due process rights were violated when he was forcibily medicated and so a full hearing on the issue has been held. According to experts, such legal wrangling and medicating is pretty common in criminal cases where defendants are deemed incompetent.
Dr. Jack Potts is a forensic psychiatrist who has evaluated thousands of defendants for competency. “When someone is determined to be incompetent the next question is can the person be restored to competency,” said Potts. “The court can order the person be involuntarily medicated.”
Dr. Potts says it happens all the time as was the case with 22-year-old Loughner, the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage. Now the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued a temporary stoppage while they weigh Loughner's due process rights and whether or not the anti-psychotic medication is necessary to control the accused killer's schizophrenia.
“Most are incompetent because of mental illness and most are restored with psychiatric medications,” said Dr. Potts. He says at any given time there are 80 to 100 people in Arizona deemed not competent and on average 85 percent are restored in about two and a half months.
Already Jared Loughner has been deemed incompetent and a danger. Federal prosecutors say he has spit and lunged at his attorney and in a video-taped interview; Loughner is seen throwing chairs at a doctor, and a roll of wet toilet paper at the camera before barricading himself behind his bed.
“In order to plead insanity you have to be competent,” said Dr. Potts. “Insane and sane are responsibility issues dealing with how a suspect is thinking when the offense occurred. Competency is the present state and you can treat incompetence. Sanity is a past state so you can't go back and change that.”
Dr. Potts is not working on the Loughner case but says, “This is a very routine procedure and it's being drawn out but this is a very serious case and attorneys do what they need to to dot their i's and cross their t's.”
Both the prosecution and defense have wrapped up their arguments in regards to medicating Loughner but it isn't known when a ruling will be issued.