By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - Prosecutors urged a federal judge on Tuesday to order the continued forced medication of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner over the objection of his attorneys.
Federal prosecutors said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court that the anti-psychotic drugs are vital to Loughner's care and treatment and that prison doctors are acting within the law in his treatment.
The filing comes in response to an emergency petition by defense attorneys asking U.S. District Judge Larry Burns to order a halt to the forcible medication.
Prosecutors said if Loughner's medication were stopped he would be a "danger to himself."
"Doing so would be contrary to the professional medical opinions of his doctors and not in the defendant's best interests," prosecutors said in court papers.
He has been held at a federal prison facility in Springfield, Missouri, since May 27.
Loughner, 23, is accused of opening fire outside a Tucson grocery store in a January 8 shooting spree that left six people dead and 13 others wounded in an attempted assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was shot through the head and is recovering from her wounds.
Defense attorneys had sought an immediate stop to the drugs, arguing that Loughner's constitutional due-process rights were being violated and there was no legal basis for continuing the forced medication.
The issue has been fought in the courts for several months. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also heard arguments on the issue last month and has not issued a ruling.
Loughner is scheduled to appear at a court hearing on Wednesday in Tucson, Arizona, to determine if doctors will be granted more time to make him mentally fit to stand trial.
Loughner was declared mentally incompetent by Burns on May 25.
He has pleaded not guilty to 49 criminal charges stemming from the shooting rampage, including multiple counts of first-degree murder.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Greg McCune)