Jared Lee Loughner
A federal appeals court Monday said federal prison officials in Missouri can forcibly medicate Jared Lee Loughner to prepare him for trial over a Tucson shooting rampage that killed six and gravely injured 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Reuters

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Jared Loughner, who allegedly shot U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, R-Arizona, and killed six others in a February rampage, can be forcibly medicated so that he can be brought to trial.

U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns in May declared Loughner to be unfit for trial after doctors diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia, and since then he has been undergoing treatment in an attempt to render him fit for trial. Lawyers subsequently asked Burns to stop medicating Loughner without his consent, but the judge ruled that doctors can continue treating Loughner with anti-psychotic drugs.

I defer to medical doctors, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns said. I have no reason to disagree with doctors. I didn't go to medical school.

The 1960 Supreme Court decision Dusky v. United States laid the legal framework for determining psychological capacity to be tried in court, establishing that an individual must be able to communicate with his lawyer and understand the charges against him. Doctors who examined Loughner said he could do neither, citing his paranoid distrust of lawyers.

People can be restored to competency with treatment most of the time, said Dr. Pogos Voskanian, a clinical and forensic pychiatrist who has provided expert testimony in trials. They don't have to be perfect as long as they can reasonably well cooperate with their lawyer and they have reasonable comprehension of the charges against them.

Since then Loughner has been undergoing treatment, and prosecutors argued for the treatment to continue by citing violent behavior that has included spitting at his lead attorney, Judy Clarke, and cursing and throwing a chair at a psychiatrist.

This is a person who is a ticking time bomb, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Kleindienst told Burns.

Loughner stands accused of opening fire when Giffords was speaking in Tucson, killing six and wounding 13.