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Court backs medication of Giffords gunman

March 5, 2012 at 11:43 PM

PHOENIX, March 5 (UPI) -- A federal court ruled Monday that forcing the man who allegedly shot Rep. Gabriella Giffords, D-Ariz., to taken psychiatric medication was justified.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a split decision that the administrative hearing that resulted in Jared Loughner being committed to a prison hospital had been enough and that a formal court hearing had not been necessary.

Loughner, 23, faces 43 felony charges in last year's shootings in Tucson that left six people dead, including a federal judge, and Giffords and 12 other people injured.

Loughner, 23, is charged with 49 felonies. He was locked up in a federal prison ward in Missouri and forcibly medicated after prison medical staff decided he was a threat to himself and others.

The Arizona Republic reported Loughner's lawyer, Judy Clarke, had challenged the commitment and medication. Clarke argued Loughner's due process had been violated and the medication was actually intended to shore him up enough to stand trial, even if his medicated state would make him incapable of assisting his defense.

The newspaper said two of the three judges agreed the procedures had been appropriate, but Judge Marsha Berzon said in her dissent that the prison officials' actions could deprive Loughner of an insanity defense.

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