US gunman pleads guilty to shooting


The suspect in a mass shooting that left a US congresswoman wounded has pleaded guilty to going on the rampage that killed six other people.

Jared Lee Loughner’s plea in Tucson, Arizona, allows him to avoid the death penalty in a shooting that gained worldwide attention in January 2011 because his intended target was Republican Gabrielle Giffords. Among the dead were Arizona’s chief federal judge and a Ms Giffords’ aide.

Federal judge Larry Burns had found that Loughner was mentally unfit to stand trial. He ruled today that months of forcibly medicating him to treat his schizophrenia made him competent to understand the gravity of the charges against him and assist in his own defence.

Loughner is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Today's hearing in Tucson, Arizona was the fourth to determine if Mr Loughner is mentally competent.

In the early weeks of his treatment, prior to the regime of forced medication, Mr Loughner reportedly paced his cell and passed nights without sleeping. However, clues to his current mental state are few.

Ms Giffords, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head, resigned from the US House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery.

Her former aide, Ron Barber, who was also wounded in the shooting spree, won a special election to fill her seat in June and will face re-election in November to serve a full two-year term in Congress.