Judge says alleged Giffords shooter can be made fit to stand trial

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Jared Lee Loughner can be made fit to stand trial, the Associated Press reports. Loughner is accused of killing six and wounding 13, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a mass shooting near Tucson in January.

Loughner has been ordered to stay at a prison hospital for treatment for four more months.

From the AP:

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns made the decision as Jared Lee Loughner sat nearby, listening intently and quietly. The 23-year-old's demeanor was in stark contrast to his last court appearance in May, when an angry, loud outburst got him kicked out the courtroom.

Burns noted on Wednesday that Loughner wasn't smirking and that, for once, was paying attention to the proceedings.

"There's reason to be optimistic he will recover and be able to assist in his case," Burns said. "The court finds that measurable progress has been made."

According to the AP, experts have concluded that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia.

Psychologist Christina Pietz, who has treated Loughner, testified at the hearing.

"He understands that he has murdered people," Pietz said, according to USA Today. "He talks about it. He talks about how remorseful he is."

USA Today reports that prosecutors had asked the judge to extend Loughner's stay for eight months. Loughner's lawyers oppose the extension.

The Arizona Republic reports that Loughner's "expressionless look" at the hearing Wednesday was a side effect of the drug he has been taking for 60 days. According to the paper, Judy Clarke, Loughner's attorney, pressed Pietz on whether Loughner had actually made progress.

Clarke also noted several incidents that seemed to belie prosecutors' assertions that his condition was improving. For example, she cited a suicide note found this month. She also cited a report dated Sept. 21 saying Loughner spoke of not dreaming and having imaginary friends with whom he spoke. These examples suggest that his medication was not working, she said.