Court clears way for Loughner's return to Missouri -

Court clears way for Loughner's return to Missouri

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By Afton Spriggs By Afton Spriggs

PHOENIX (AP) -- A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage can be returned to a Missouri prison facility where he will undergo more mental health treatment to try to make him mentally fit to stand trial.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a request by Jared Lee Loughner's attorneys to keep him in Tucson. Loughner's lawyers want him to stay in Arizona while they appeal a lower court's ruling that extends their mentally ill client's four-month stay at a Springfield, Mo., prison by another four months.

The appeals court in San Francisco said Loughner's attorneys haven't demonstrated any irreparable harm that's likely to come if he is returned to Missouri.

Earlier this week, the court had put a temporary block on the government's plan to return Loughner to Missouri, but Friday's ruling lifts that temporary order and opens the door for his trip back to Springfield.

Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting that killed six people and injured 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Before coming back to Arizona for the lower court's hearing last week, Loughner had spent four months at a Missouri facility where experts have been trying to make him mentally fit to stand trial. Prison officials have forcibly medicated Loughner with psychotropic drugs for more than 60 days.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns concluded that Loughner can probably be made psychologically ready for trial and ordered him back to Missouri for four more months of treatment.

Loughner's attorneys asked the appeals court to block his transfer back to Missouri, arguing that the order extending his mental health treatment there was legally erroneous.

Prosecutors opposed Loughner's effort to remain in Tucson and defended Burns' ruling, arguing that defense lawyers weren't likely to succeed in their appeal.

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