Jared Loughner Judge Denies Request to Block Release of Victims' Autopsies

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Jared Lee Loughner
The judge handling the case of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Loughner denied requests from both prosecutors and Loughner's defense attorney to block the release of autopsy reports of the victims of the shooting to the public.

Prosecutors filed a motion voicing concern that media coverage could taint the jury pool, and they say the families of five of the six victims object to the release of the autopsies.

Yesterday, Loughner's attorneys followed suit and filed a one-sentence motion, saying they join prosecutors in opposing the release of the autopsies. They provided no details, though, about their reason for doing so.

Today, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns denied the requests, saying he saw no evidence suggesting the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office was even considering releasing the documents.

Burns went on to say autopsy reports are public record, and unless they present a risk to the ability of the accused to get a fair trial, their release can't be blocked.

Burns says prosecutors can refile their request again, if such a risk becomes apparent, the Associated Press reports.

So far, Loughner's been charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of attempted assassination in the January 8, shooting rampage outside a Tucson Safeway grocery store that left six dead, including federal Judge John Roll, and 13 others wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Loughner probably will be indicted in federal court on several other charges stemming from the attack, including two federal murder counts for the deaths of Roll and Giffords aide Gabriel Zimmerman.

Then, it's the state's turn. Loughner is facing a slew of state charges that have not yet been filed. Federal statute requires the suspension of all state or local prosecutions while the federal case is pending. So state charges will be put on hold until the feds finish their case, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Pima County Attorney's Office announced earlier this month.

New federal charges are expected against Loughner before his next court hearing, scheduled for March 9, according to Burns.

Burns told attorneys that, during the March 9 hearing, he would also schedule future hearings and set a date for trial. He ordered that the trial begin no later than September.
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