Groups want to voice views on forced medication in case against Ariz. shooting spree suspect

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PHOENIX — Two national psychiatric groups on Wednesday asked an appeals court to let them weigh in on the issue of forced medication in the criminal case against the man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a deadly shooting rampage in Tucson.

The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and The Law made a request to become a party in the case as the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals considers whether the decision to forcibly medicate Jared Lee Loughner with psychotropic drugs can be made by prison officials or a judge.

Loughner has been at a Missouri prison facility since May 27 after a judge concluded he was mentally unfit to help in his legal defense.

He was forcibly medicated between June 21 and July 1 after prison officials concluded his outbursts at the prison posed a danger to others.

The appeals court temporarily halted the medication. But prison officials resumed medicating him July 19 after they concluded his psychological condition was deteriorating and put him on round-the-clock suicide watch.

The court later lifted its ban on medicating Loughner.

The psychiatric groups say in their friend-of-the-court brief that the decision to treat dangerous patients should be made by those who have custody of them, not by a judge who lacks the background to make appropriate treatment decisions.

They also say requiring a prison to seek court approval for such medications is likely to delay treatment and prolong patients’ risks to themselves or others.

The groups have voiced their views in other cases involving forced medication.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges in the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and wounded 13, including Giffords.

His lawyers haven’t said whether they intend to present an insanity defense, but they have noted in court filings that his mental condition likely will be a central issue at trial.

Mental health experts have determined Loughner suffers from schizophrenia.

Reported by THE ASSOCICATED PRESS

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