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Jared Loughner's Forced Medication on Hold; Ninth Circuit Court Wants Briefing by Lawyers

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Arizona can't force Jared Loughner to take his anti-psychotic medication for now, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court ruled today.

The opinion comes less than a week after U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said Loughner could be forced to take his meds.

This spring, the apparently insane Tucson massacre suspect, who shot 19 and killed six during a security-free parking lot meeting between Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and constituents, lunged at his attorney in prison and also tried to attack a mental health expert who had visited him. Prosecutors say he needs to be medicated because he's a danger to others. But they also need him to be judged competent enough to stand trial for the shooting, or he'll end up not guilty by reason of insanity, (though will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars in any case.)

In a potentially negative sign for the prosecution, the Ninth specifically mentioned that it wants lawyers to consider Loughner's case based on a previous case considered by the appeals court.

The judges noted that in the 2006 case of illegal immigrant Vicente Ruiz-Gaxiola, who'd been charged with reentering the country after deportation, they ruled in 2010 that a patient who's long-term illness was unlikely to be treated effectively with drugs shouldn't be subjected to the drugs in the short term:

That ruling stated:

There is no medical value to a medication regime that alleviates the mental disorder, if it does so at all, only for the short period of time necessary for trial preparation and the trial itself, while creating a risk of side-effects that would render the regime inappropriate for a patient's long-term treatment. If the involuntary antipsychotic medication is to be administered for so short a period, it is clearly not in "the patient's best medical interest" to risk serious medical consequences for a benefit that, if one results at all, is only a temporary alleviation of the symptoms and not a long-term remedy for the mental illness.

In this case, though, the crime's way more serious than simply coming to the United States without the right paperwork. And who really cares if he suffers side-effects? Whichever prison ends up housing him has an obvious interest in keeping him mellow, so a long-term drug management plan seems appropriate in this case.

The question, though, may come down to a medical one: If the drugs can't do anything other than make him sane in the short-term, maybe the court system will decide he can't be forcibly injected during his trial.

Considering that accidental, fatal drug overdoses on the rise in Arizona, we're leaning towards forcible medication -- a lot of it.

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