Jared Lee Loughner, charged with shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in a January rampage in Tucson, can't be forced to take anti-psychotic drugs until the government shows that the drugs are absolutely necessary and likely to render him competent to stand trial, a federal appeals court has ruled.
In an order made public Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary halt to the involuntary medication of Loughner, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. He is being held at a federal prison hospital in Missouri.
The court asked lawyers for both the defendant and the federal government to make their case by Wednesday evening, hinting that a final decision on the forced medication issue would probably come soon.
The appeals court panel, headed by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, issued the temporary stay at the request of Loughner's defense lawyers, who argued that the government isn't entitled to overrule a prisoner's objection to medication without a court hearing.