The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that Jared Lee Loughner, an individual who is charged with shooting Representative Gabrielle Giffords, could refuse taking forced antipsychotic medication while he appealed his treatment prescribed by prison doctors. Loughner, who has been prosecuted for the Tucson shooting, is currently facing 49 federal charges including murdering and attempting to murder several federal officials and multiple constituents of Ms. Giffords, who were attending a public event that day. Early this year, he was placed in a federal facility in Springfield, Missouri, in order to undergo medical treatment and psychological evaluation after a San Diego federal district court judge found him incompetent to stand trial.
Prison officials attempted to justify forced administration of the antipsychotic medication by emphasizing that Jared Lee Loughner was a danger to himself and others. Specifically, they stressed that he twice threw a plastic chair at his doctors, and he spat and lunged at his attorneys. However, attorneys for the alleged Tucson shooter argued that prison officials had been forcibly medicated him not to reduce his alleged dangerousness, but, instead, to restore his competency to stand trial. As a result, Loughner was entitled to a greater constitutional protection against the government’s intrusion, which he was not originally afforded after a federal district court judge authorized the administration of forced antipsychotic drugs.
The Ninth Circuit agreed with Loughner’s argument, and issued its tentative ruling that prohibited the administration of antipsychotic medication at least until August 29, when the parties will be given the opportunity to fully brief the court on this specific issue. Under the United States Supreme Court’s precedent, prison officials are permitted to involuntarily administer antipsychotic drugs to render a mentally ill defendant competent to stand trial on serious criminal charges. However, such a procedure must be first judicially approved. The court’s determination is governed by balancing several factors, including whether the treatment is medically appropriate and is necessary to further important governmental trial-related interests, whether there are less intrusive alternatives, and whether there is a substantial likelihood of serious side effects that may undermine the trial’s fairness.
The San Diego Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo is dedicated to defending criminal charges in state, federal, and county courts throughout San Diego. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122, or: [email protected].
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