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Loughner can be made mentally fit for trial

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The man accused of wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a deadly shooting rampage can eventually be made mentally fit to stand trial, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in ordering that Jared Lee Loughner’s detention be extended for four more months.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said “measurable progress has been made” in restoring Loughner to the point where he could assist in his defense. Loughner has been at a prison facility in Missouri the last four months after Burns found him mentally unfit for trial.

Experts have concluded Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, and prosecutors contend Loughner can be made competent with more mental health treatment. But Loughner’s attorneys argue prosecutors have failed to prove that it’s probable his condition will improve enough.

Loughner listened intently and quietly at Wednesday’s hearing. Burns noted the suspect’s smirk was gone and that for once he’s paying attention to the proceedings.

“There’s reason to be optimistic he will recover and be able to assist in his case,” he said.

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

Loughner is still delusional but has made strides during the past four months at the Springfield, Mo., facility, Dr. Christina Pietz said.




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