Judge won't halt mental exam of Tucson suspect

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PHOENIX (AP) -- A federal judge said Thursday he won't reconsider his order sending the Tucson shooting suspect to Missouri to have a competency exam at a federal medical facility.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns also rejected requests by lawyers for Jared Lee Loughner that he delay the exam while they appeal the order to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

In a filing with the appeals court, Loughner's attorneys said they were told Thursday by a psychologist at the federal facility in Springfield, Mo., that their client's mental competency exam had already begun.

The 22-year-old has pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting at a congressional meet-and-greet event that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others and killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge.

Loughner's lawyers argued that a mental exam could do irreparable damage to their client's rights while the matter is reviewed by the courts.

They also objected to the exam being videotaped, and argued that providing prosecutors with the recordings would violate their client's rights to a fair trial and against self-incrimination.

Prosecutors asked Burns to deny Loughner's request, arguing that his lawyers have offered no basis in law for their request.

Burns wrote in Thursday's order that the federal facility in Springfield is the best and closest place for the exam and that sending him there won't harm the defense of Loughner.

Burns also wrote that Loughner's lawyers - and not prosecutors - requested the video recording and that providing copies to both the prosecution and defense lawyers is only fair.

"Validating the defense request would sharply and unfairly tip the adversarial balance in this case, and there is no legal justification for it," Burns wrote.

Loughner was flown from Tucson to Springfield on Wednesday.

The exam will determine whether he understands the nature of the charges against him and can assist in his defense.

A message left for Loughner attorney Judy Clarke wasn't immediately returned.

Robbie Sherwood, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Arizona, which is prosecuting Loughner, declined to comment on the ruling.

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Associated Press writer Bob Christie contributed to this report.

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