Loughner Appears In Court

Melissa Block speaks with NPR's Ted Robbins about Wednesday's hearing on the future of Jared Loughner. The alleged shooter in January's Tucson rampage is being medicated against his will. This hearing will discuss his treatment — and whether he is fit to stand trial.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

In Tucson, Arizona, a federal judge has sent Jared Lee Loughner back to a prison hospital for more treatment. Loughner is the 23-year-old charged with the January shooting rampage in Tucson that killed six and left 13 wounded, among them Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner was in court today for a hearing to assess his competency to stand trial. A psychologist told the judge that Loughner's condition has improved with antipsychotic medication and that he could be made competent with more treatment.

NPR's Ted Robbins has been covering this story, and he joins me now. And, Ted, tell me more, please, about the testimony today from this psychologist, in particular.

TED ROBBINS: Well, Melissa, we actually heard from two people. We heard from Christina Pietz, who is the main psychologist who's been treating Jared Loughner, and then James Ballinger(ph), who is the main psychiatrist who has been controlling the medications he's been getting. He's been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. And in May, Judge Larry Burns declared him unfit to stand trial.

G: He knows that Gabrielle Giffords survived the shooting now, and he wouldn't accept that before. And here's the, you know, here's what I found most interesting. He has expressed remorse and says that he feels guilty for the killings.

And so given that, Judge Burns has said that treatment ought to continue and for - at this point, for another four months in the federal facility in Springfield, Missouri.

BLOCK: Now, Jared Loughner was in the courtroom in Tucson today. The last time he was there, he was thrown out after a rambling outburst in the courtroom. What was his demeanor today?

ROBBINS: He - that went well. He was still surrounded by U.S. Marshals who are standing, you know, right behind his chair. But his demeanor was much different. He was calm. He was wearing a white T-shirt and khakis, I should say. Last time, he sort of started rocking and then got more and more agitated before his outburst. This time, he was calm, paid attention the entire time. And the hearing began at 11:00 in the morning and ended moments ago. So it's been a long day, and he handled it out as everybody else. Essentially, everybody else in the courtroom wasn't speaking.

BLOCK: Now, he's been forcibly given this antipsychotic medication in prison. He's going back now for more treatment. What happens after that?

ROBBINS: Well, as I said, four months, and then the judge did say that he's willing to see about extending it another four months, which would make a year. And, you know, his psychologist who's been at this for 21 years has - she said that the research that she sees shows that something close to 80 percent of people who are declared incompetent to stand trial are restored to competence within a year of starting medication. So, you know, we'll see more therapy, more medication to see if the drugs continue to work.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Ted Robbins talking about today's competency hearing for Jared Loughner in Tucson. Ted, thanks very much.

ROBBINS: You're welcome, Melissa.

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