Loughner faces 49 counts; death penalty decision could take mont - Tucson News Now

Loughner faces 49 counts; death penalty decision could take months

By Barbara Grijalva - email

Phoenix, AZ (KOLD) - The suspected gunman in the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting attack, Jared Lee Loughner, will now face federal charges in the deaths of all six people killed that day and charges related to all those who were wounded.

A federal grand jury in Tucson returned a new indictment against Loughner.

It includes the original charges, and many more.

KOLD News 13 went to the Phoenix news conference Friday where U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said, "This indictment is comprehensive and is solid." 

Burke said, "Building upon our earlier indictment, this indictment covers the murder of United States District Judge John Roll, congressional staffer Gabe Zimmerman, as well as for causing the death of four other citizens and the injuries to many more."

The new 49-count indictment against Loughner is called a superseding indictment.

Every one of those wounded or killed during the January 8th shootings is now included as a victim in this federal case.

Burke explained the new indictment supersedes the original one that stated, "That Loughner attempted to assassinate Representative Giffords and attempted to murder two federal employees that work for Giffords."

The new indictment includes those charges, and adds charges related to all the other victims of January 8th.

Six people died. 13 were wounded that day.

"It covers all the murdered and injured victims who were attending the Congress on Your Corner event on January 8th. It includes the firearms offenses committed by Loughner and seeks to vindicate the civil rights of these victims violated by Loughner. There are no distinctions at all between the victims," Burke said.

"These victims were exercising one of the most precious and fundamental rights of American citizens--the right to meet freely, openly and peaceable with their member of Congress.  It is a civil right and their safety in participating in this federal activity is protected by federal law as reflected in this indictment," Burke said.

Prosecutors may pursue the death penalty.

According to former former federal prosecutor  Sean Chapman, that's likely the case.

"In my experience, the death penalty is likely," he says.

He says it's a long and complicated process which can take weeks or months more.

The decision will be made by US Attorney General Eric Holder.

But he won't make the decision alone.

The capital case unit, made up of prosecutors who handle only death penalty cases will weigh in, as well as the victims families.

"They will be consulted on their opinion of the death penalty in Washington," he says.

The victims opinions, for or against the death penalty, will carry a lot of weight.

What must also be taken into consideration is whether Loughner had any serious mental illness issues.

Loughner will be arraigned on the new charges next Wednesday in federal court in Tucson.

Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.

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