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Should Jared Loughner be Forcibly Drugged in Jail?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on June 28, 2011 1:17 PM

Should Jared Loughner be forcibly drugged? Loughner's mental competency has been the focus of his trial for the Tucson, Arizona shootings.

Loughner was declared mentally incompetent and unfit to stand trial. He has been in a federal facility ever since. Two doctors have independently come to the conclusion that Loughner is schizophrenic.

Because of his mental incompetency, Loughner's trial has been delayed until he can be found competent to stand trial. And that is why they are forcibly drugging him, according to defense attorney Judy Clark, reports the Courthouse News Service.

Officials at the facility that Loughner is being held at determined in a closed-door hearing on June 14th that Loughner was a danger to others and as a result should be forcibly medicated, according to the Courthouse News Service.

Loughner's defense says that the closed-door hearing and the declaration that he was a danger to others came after Loughner refused to take medicine voluntarily to restore him to competency, Courthouse News Service reports.

According to court documents, if a prisoner is found to be a danger to others, the only procedural requirements are an administrative hearing with the prisoner assigned a "staff representative," not an attorney, to assist him, reports The Wall Street Journal. Loughner's defense believes that this administrative hearing has been a violation of his due process rights, reports Courthouse News Service.

Prison officials say that Loughner had thrown plastic chairs in his cell and had spit on his own attorney, Courthouse News Service reports.

Loughner's defense claims that these justifications don't add up. The chair-throwing incident was so minor that it apparently wasn't even reported by prison officials, The Wall Street Journal reports.

While some would think that medicating someone who is mentally incompetent is something that should be done, under the law, it could be a violation of their due process rights if the prisoner wasn't given the full procedural protections they were entitled to. The judge will have to analyze the defense's filings to see if Loughner was given all the procedural protections he was warranted under the law during the closed-door hearing. If he was, then the drugs were correctly administered - if he wasn't, there was a violation of his rights.

So while it's understandable that many think that the logical answer to the question of "should Jared Loughner be forcibly drugged" is a simple "yes" in order to restore Loughner to mental competency, legally speaking, it's not that simple.

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