Life sentence for Giffords shooting
A man has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to attempting last year to assassinate former Arizona US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as well as to killing six people in Tucson.
Convicted gunman Jared Loughner received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others in a rampage last year.
Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, was handed the sentence following a plea deal with prosecutors in August that spared him the death penalty.
US District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed - one for each of the six people who lost their lives, and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords - represented the individuality of the victims.
"He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again," Judge Burns said before Loughner was led away by federal marshals.
The hearing marked the first time victims — including Giffords — could confront Loughner in court.
Ms Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark E Kelly, spoke on her behalf, saying Loughner changed his wife’s life forever, but could not dent her spirit. Ms Giffords, who suffered head wounds that left her with speech difficulties and a limp, watched as he was sentenced for his crimes.
Loughner, asked at the outset of the hearing by US District Judge Larry Burns if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, answered in a low voice, "That's true." He was otherwise silent as he sat next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke.
In the audience were Loughner's parents, Amy and Randy, and Giffords' former congressional aide, Ron Barber, who also was wounded in the January 8th, 2011, shooting.
Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.
He admitted going to a "Congress On Your Corner" event armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill Giffords, who was seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including US District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.
Loughner also admitted shooting the others with the intent to kill.
Court-appointed experts said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions. He was determined unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.
Loughner later was ruled mentally competent to stand trial after being treated for psychosis at a US Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.
Few clues to the motives for the attack have emerged. But prison psychologist Christina Pietz has testified that Loughner had expressed remorse for the rampage and especially for the nine-year-old girl's death.
Ms Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery. Her former aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the shooting spree, served out the rest of her term after winning a special election.
Mr Barber ran in Tuesday's election for a newly created congressional district in Arizona and was running neck-and-neck with Republican Martha McSally, with the outcome hanging on some 80,000 provisional and early votes that have yet to be tallied.