University dropout Jared Loughner is charged with murdering six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, who was shot through the head and is recovering.
Loughner was found by two medical experts to have schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions, and the 23-year-old was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial at a May hearing.
With Loughner consigned to treatment at aÂ USÂ federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, the trial proceedings are in in limbo.
An appellate court is currently weighing whether to uphold or reverse a federal judge’s decision giving doctors four more months to restore him to competency.
Also at issue is whether the doctors can continue to force antipsychotic medication on Loughner, who was found to be unable to comprehend the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense – the twin legal tests of competency.
Since the ruling, defense attorneys have repeatedly sought an immediate stop to the drug regime, arguing that Loughner’s constitutional due-process rights were being violated and there was no legal basis to continue the forced medication.
As the legal battle goes on, federal prosecutors said that Loughner appears to be improving from the out-of-control man evicted from the competency hearing in May for a confused verbal outburst.
Marshals dragged him from the room after he interrupted proceedings, shouting “she died in front of me,” perhaps a reference to a deluded belief that he had killed Giffords. Watching the outburst, Loughner’s mother wept inconsolably.
Since then, prosecutors credit treatment and use of anti-psychotic drugs. Christina Pietz, the primary psychologist treating Loughner, has said he is not the same individual that she encountered at the prison’s mental health unit.
At that time Loughner threw a chair and lunged and spat at his attorneys, believing they were conspiring against him, “blackmailing and extorting him for money,” Pietz testified.
During a spate without medication, she said Loughner went for 50 hours without sleep and that a blister caused by pacing subsequently infected his foot and leg. He would sob uncontrollably and throw his feces on his clothes and bed.
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