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Terry Greene Sterling / / Jul 30, 2011 7:36 PM EDT.

Jared Loughner and Attorney Judy Clarke
Attorney Judy Clarke; inset: Jared Loughner, AP Photo.

Nearly three months after he allegedly killed six people and injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others during a January shooting rampage in Tucson, Jared Lee Loughner sat in a Tucson courtroom, where his mental competency to stand trial was being evaluated. Gone were the shaved head and leering smile from his mug shot released after the shootings. Now Loughner wouldn’t stand out in a crowd—he’d grown a full head of brown hair, sideburns, and a goatee. He appeared benign.
And then, unexpectedly, he yelled at the judge: “Thank you for the free kill. She died in front of me. Your Cheesiness.”
The 22-year-old unemployed community-college dropout, who had just been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was later deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. He was whisked back to a federal Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Springfield, Mo. Since then, he’s been at the center of a vicious court battle over whether he should be forced to take psychotropic medicines.
In the past few weeks, courts have ordered Loughner, who does not want to be medicated, to be put on meds, then taken off meds, then put on meds again, as lawyers prepare for yet another appellate-court hearing in late August over his forced medication.
The intense legal fight between Loughner’s defense team, led by star San Diego lawyer Judy Clarke, and federal prosecutors raises serious medical and ethical questions. Should prosecutors wage a legal war to force Loughner to take medicines that will render him mentally “competent” to stand trial and possibly be sentenced to death? And should Clarke fight for him to live off meds with his paralyzing mental illness indefinitely in order to spare him a trial and keep him alive?

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