PHOENIX — The suspect in the January shooting rampage that badly wounded a U.S. Congresswoman was flown Wednesday to a specialized facility in Missouri to undergo a court-ordered mental evaluation, and his lawyers immediately asked an appeals court for him to be returned.
Lawyers for Jared Lee Loughner said in a court filing that he was taken from Tucson to a federal Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Missouri. Loughner was ordered transferred to have tests to determine if he understands the nature and consequences of the charges he faces and can assist in his defence.
Loughner, 22, has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the Jan. 8 attack that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
She remains at a rehabilitation centre in Houston as she recovers from a bullet wound to the brain.
Late on Tuesday, Loughner’s lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to reconsider his order sending him to Missouri.
They also objected to the examination being videotaped and the tapes turned over to the prosecution.
After he was moved at midmorning Wednesday, they asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for essentially the same thing.
Burns’ Monday order required the exam to be done and the tapes provided to prosecutors and defence attorneys. Burns also wrote that Loughner’s attorneys can seek a separate competency exam by an independent psychiatrist.
But he also ordered that exam to be videotaped as well, with copies to both the defence and prosecution.
Defence lawyers contend a mental exam could cause irreparable harm to their client’s rights while the matter is reviewed by the courts.
They also argued that providing prosecutors with the videotapes would violate Loughner’s rights against self-incrimination and to a fair trial.
Prosecutors asked Burns to deny Loughner’s request to put his mental examination order on hold, arguing that his lawyers have offered no basis in law for their request.
Prosecutors also took issue with Loughner’s request that only his lawyers have access to video recordings of his examination. The judge had ordered that both sides have access to the videos.
“After specifically requesting videotaping of the competency evaluation, the defendant now has buyer’s remorse about this request,” prosecutor Beverly Anderson said in a court filing.
Prosecutors asked the judge to order no videotaping of the examinations.
The charges against Loughner include trying to assassinate Giffords, as well as murder in the deaths of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman.
In a separate court filing, Burns granted a request by prosecutors to prevent the Pima County Sheriff’s Office from releasing records of the probe to The Washington Post. The sheriff’s office joined the FBI in investigating the shooting.
Burns wrote that Loughner’s right to a fair trial outweighs whatever disclosures might be authorized under state public records law.
Such a release of records would intensify publicity in a case that has already received heavy coverage, Burns wrote.