PHOENIX - An Arizona judge on Monday ordered the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage to undergo a mental evaluation at a specialized facility in Missouri as soon as possible.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the evaluation will be videotaped and provided to prosecutors and defense attorneys. He also ordered that it be conducted "as soon as possible" and no later than April 29.
Jared Lee Loughner has pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the Jan. 8 attack in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The congresswoman remains at a rehabilitation center in Houston as she recovers from a bullet wound to the brain.Special Section: Tragedy in Tuscon
Prosecutors had argued that Loughner's exam should be conducted at a so-called medical referral center that provides forensic services and has increased resources, and recommended the facility in Springfield, Missouri.
Defense attorneys argue that the exam should be done by an outside expert at a Tucson prison and wanted assurances that the evaluation doesn't expand into a review of their client's sanity.
Burns agreed that the Springfield facility is the best place for the exam, and ordered that the scope of the exam should be limited to whether Loughner is competent to stand trial, not whether he was sane at the time of the shooting.
"The question at issue is whether the defendant is presently suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him, or to assist properly in his defense," Burns wrote.
He acknowledged that transferring Loughner would be inconvenient for defense attorneys but ruled that it is "unavoidable in light of the need to reliably and definitively resolve the question of the defendant's present competency."
The judge also said the defense can visit Loughner while he is in Missouri.