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Judge orders hearing on forcibly medicating Loughner

By the CNN Wire Staff
Jared Lee Loughner is charged in a mass shooting that killed six and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Jared Lee Loughner is charged in a mass shooting that killed six and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
  • Jared Lee Loughner is charged in Tucson mass shooting in which six were killed
  • Forcing Loughner to take powerful drugs violates his rights, lawyers say
  • Prosecutors say the medication is necessary to control his schizophrenia
  • Loughner sent to prisoner medical center to try to restore his mental competency

(CNN) -- A federal judge set a hearing for Wednesday on a legal challenge to a decision to forcibly medicate Arizona shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner in a federal prison hospital.

In an order dated Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns scheduled the hearing for the U.S. Federal Court in San Diego.

Lawyers representing Loughner contend that forcing him to take mind-altering psychotropic drugs against his will violates his rights. Prosecutors responded Tuesday that prison officials acted properly in ordering the medication, which they said was necessary for Loughner to control his schizophrenia.

Loughner, 22, is charged in the January mass shooting in which six people were killed and 13 wounded, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in front of a Safeway grocery story in Tucson, Arizona. A federal judge ruled last month that Loughner was not competent to stand trial, and he was sent to the federal facility in Springfield, Missouri.

His lawyers conceded in their emergency motion filed June 24 that they were uncertain whether officials at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, where Loughner was transferred in late May to try to restore his mental competency, had started administering the drugs.

However, they said prison officials held a deficient hearing process and used faulty reasoning in deciding to drug Loughner against his will.

For example, Loughner had no attorney present at the June 14 hearing, the lawyers said in their motion, and officials failed to state the drug and dosage he should receive.

According to the emergency motion, authorities had earlier assessed Loughner as dangerous because of incidents before his transfer to the Springfield prison: He threw a chair against a door and spit at an attorney.

However, the reasoning by prison officials in Springfield for deciding to administer the drugs was to treat Loughner's mental illness, rather than to subdue any dangerous behavior, the motion noted.

Prosecutors argued in their response that Loughner received a proper administrative hearing on the matter, and the medication prescribed was necessary to prevent him from being a danger to himself and others.