A federal appeals court Tuesday will consider whether prison officials have the authority to forcibly medicate Jared Loughner, the Arizona man accused of targeting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a January rampage at a Tucson supermarket, killing six and wounding 13.
The defense team has argued for less intrusive ways of calming the inmate, who recently, without the medication, stayed awake for over 50 hours, walked around in circles until he developed foot sores and then declined medication to treat his infected foot. He has already lost about 10 pounds in jail.
His lawyers point to minor tranquilizers or restraints as more appropriate methods of controlling Loughner, and they argue that doping was a violation of his personal liberty.
Prosecutors argue that without medication, Loughner is a danger to himself and others.
Loughner has been held since late May at a federal prison hospital in Missouri after a judge concluded that Loughner was not competent to stand trial. Judges will occasionally determine that a person is not competent to stand trial if, after psychiatric and/or psychological evaluations, it is determined that the defendant cannot reasonably understand the charges brought against him or her, nor would the defendant have the competency to plead guilty or waive the right of counsel.
After entering the Missouri facility, Loughner was forcibly medicated, which doctors say was necessary to treat what seemed to be symptoms of schizophrenia, MSNBC reports. However, a federal appeals court ruled to end the forcible medication of Loughner in July.
However, facility officials then argued that Loughner could be a danger to himself and the other inmates, which allow U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to order the return of forced medication later that month, a move the judge called entirely appropriate and reasonable.
Loughner's mental state has frequently been called into question. After the shooting incident, reports swirled about Loughner's unseemly behavior at the community college he attended, in which the college later dismissed him. Convoluted Youtube videos showed up, portraying a mentally unstable individual. It was also reported that Loughner was regularly known for using marijuana, along with the hallucinogen salvia.
Loughner's demeanor in the courtroom has also led to concerns about his mental state. He was reported to have thrown a chair and spat at a lawyer on his defense team earlier this summer.
The shooting-spree led to a resurgence of the gun-control debate, along with a debate about whether the nature of the country's political rhetoric led people to commit violent acts.