A federal appeals court late Friday denied an emergency request to block the forced medication of Jared Lee Loughner, the man accused in the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting spree that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Tucson.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request from Loughner’s attorneys for detailed, daily medical records to determine if the medication violated an earlier court order halting treatment. The court denied the request without prejudice, allowing defense attorneys to continue to pursue the issue in district court.
Loughner’s attorneys had filed the emergency motion Thursday, claiming that prison officials had started medicating Loughner against his will Monday in direct violation of a circuit court order less than a week earlier to stop such treatment.
They said that the government’s argument for administering the psychotropic drugs — that Loughner had become “an immediate threat to himself” and needed to be re-medicated on an emergency basis — was a “willful attempt to circumvent judicial supervision of the competency restoration process.”
The defense claimed that twice-daily, 1 milligram dose of risperidone that Loughner began receiving this week is not the treatment that would typically be used in an emergency situation to get control of someone who posed a threat to himself. It is more typical of long-term treatment that is “precisely the medication regime halted by this court’s injunction,” the filing said.
But in a detailed response filed late Friday afternoon, government lawyers painted a picture of a depressed and hopeless Loughner who said he wanted to die and who sobbed uncontrollably in his cell.
That “psychiatric emergency” justified the decision by officials at the federal prison in Springfield, Mo., to medicate Loughner against his will, they argued.
They said that on July 13, the day after the circuit court first ordered a stop to the forcible administration of psychotropics to Loughner, he told his primary clinician at the federal prison that he wanted to die, telling her “give me the injection, kill me now.” The clinician, Dr. Christina Pietz, said Loughner spoke of the killings and the possibility of getting the death penalty, and sobbed uncontrollably for almost an hour.
In subsequent days, he appeared disoriented and confused, he was seen pacing and sobbing, and he stopped eating and sleeping, the government said. He was kept on suicide watch as he displayed behaviors that showed an “inability to cope with grief, stress, and severe anxiety,” Pietz wrote.
As Loughner’s “mental health continued to deteriorate,” doctors decided Monday that he needed to be medicated again. The previous court order did allow prison officials to use “less intrusive” means, including the administration of minor tranquilizers, to treat Loughner if he was dangerous to himself or others.
Federal officials Friday called that action “appropriate and legal,” noting that doctors are experts who are “legally and ethically bound to act in the defendant’s medical best interests.”
Friday’s ruling by the appeals court also rejects the defense’s request for daily reports of Loughner’s medical administrations, a request that federal officials called “inappropriate, unwarranted and unworkable” in their response.
The circuit court, in its July 12 order, had set a full hearing on the medication question for the week of Aug. 29 in San Francisco.