PHOENIX (AP) — Attorneys for the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage on Friday appealed a federal judge's ruling that he can be forced to continue taking anti-psychotic drugs.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ruled Wednesday after a hearing in San Diego that he didn't want to second-guess doctors at the federal prison in Springfield, Mo., who determined that suspect Jared Lee Loughner was a danger.
Loughner's attorneys appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a one-paragraph filing. They say Loughner had been forcibly medicated since June 21.
A message left for lead Loughner attorney Judy Clarke wasn't immediately returned Friday.
Loughner has been at the Missouri facility since May 28 after a judge concluded he was mentally unfit to help in his legal defense.
The 22-year-old college dropout has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the Jan. 8 rampage that killed six and wounded 13 including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Prosecutors have said in court papers that Loughner spit on his own attorney, lunged at her and had to be restrained by prison staff on April 4. They mentioned an outburst during a March 28 interview with a mental health expert in which Loughner became enraged, cursed at her and threw a plastic chair at her twice.
Burns rejected defense claims that the prison forced the medications in an effort to make Loughner competent to stand trial. He said the key question was whether Loughner posed a danger and that prison doctors, not him, were best qualified to answer that.
Burns was appointed to the case after all federal judges in Arizona recused themselves.
Loughner was not at the hearing in San Diego and did not listen in. Mental health experts have determined that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia and will try to make him psychologically fit to stand trial. He will spend up to four months at the facility.
If Loughner is later determined to be competent enough for trial, the court proceedings will resume. If he isn't deemed competent at the end of his treatment, Loughner's stay at the facility can be extended.
Loughner's lawyers haven't said whether they intend to present an insanity defense, but they have noted in court filings that his mental condition will likely be a central issue at trial.