Court Orders Mental Evaluation of Giffords' Assailant

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A federal judge in Phoenix on Monday ordered a mental evaluation of Jared Lee Loughner, indicted for the Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, to determine if he is mentally fit to stand trial.

Loughner, 22, opened fire in a grocery store parking lot, killing six and wounding 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az.), who miraculously survived a bullet in the head at point blank range. Giffords, the wife of astronaut Mark Kelly, has been making phenomenal progress in an intensive rehabilitation program in Dallas. 

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns ordered the evaluation to be carried out as soon as possible and not later than April 29 at a specialized facility in Springfield, Mo. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will receive a videotape of the evaluation before a competency hearing scheduled for May 25.

Loughner's attorneys would have preferred that their client not be transferred to Missouri for the evaluation, arguing that the trip would affect their relationship with him and potentially affect his "seriously ill" condition.

Judge Burns ruled in favor of the prosecution, saying the ruling "acknowledges that moving the defendant to Missouri for a relatively short period of time will be temporarily inconvenient for the defense team...but the inconvenience is unavoidable."

Loughner pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

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