Loughner pleads guilty, avoids death penalty

Court Sketches by Bill Robles
Court Sketches by Bill Robles
Court Sketches by Bill Robles
Court Sketches by Bill Robles

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Jared Loughner pleaded guilty today to 19 counts related to last year's mass shooting after being found by a Federal judge to be competent to stand trial.

Moments after U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns ruled that Loughner is competent to stand trial, the accused gunman said under oath that he has a clear mind and clear head to plead guilty.

After the judge read each count, Loughner responded, "I plead guilty."

Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting at a meet and greet event.

As part of the plea agreement, Loughner will not face the death penalty. Loughner will serve seven life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole. One life term is for the attempted assassination of Giffords.

Plus two sentences for the murders of U.S. Court Judge JohnRoll and Giffords' aide Gabe Zimmerman as federal employees and four for thedeaths of Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and DorwanStoddard.

He will serve an additional 140 years for wounding 12 other people.

Asked by Burns if he understood the plea agreement, Loughner responded, "I do."

Loughner will be sentenced on Nov. 15.

KOLD News 13's Som Lisaius was inside the courtroom and said Loughner's eyes appeared very much engaged in what was happening.

Throughout the testimony he appeared to be tracking all that was going on and appeared very engaged.

At one point, Loughner even smiled when his therapist referred to one of the officers by name at the medical hospital, who later was identified as one of his favorite individuals at the hospital.

Loughner is very pale with short hair and sat with his arms folded in front of him, for the first hour and a half not saying anything.

Burns heard testimony from a court-appointed psychiatrist before making his ruling.

Dr. Christina Pietz testified that Loughner is "competent to proceed" in the trial.

Pietz characterized Loughner's mental state as stable, but said he still exhibits situational depression.

Pietz said Loughner believes he is a failure, and is remorseful for the shooting on Jan. 8, 2011.

Loughner has the ability to discuss his defense with his defense team, Pietz said. He is not restrained during interactions with his team and he is not experiencing auditory hallucinations, Pietz said.

Pietz said she has had to be "creative" in restoring Loughner because of his high profile.

Pietz said outdoor recreation and interaction with other inmates has helped Loughner's return to competency. She said his jobs in prison also have played a major role in helping move him along.

She said it took Loughner six to eight months to respond to medication, but that he was never forcibly medicated.

Loughner began expressing remorse for the shooting in July, 2011, Pietz said. She said he was tormented by his thoughts.

Pietz said she has reviewed about 2,000 pages of investigative reports in the Loughner case. She said diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia  in March last year. Loughner was depressed in high school and that his friends were afraid of him, Pietz said.

Som Lisaius said Loughner acted cordially and polite, doing everything expected.

"It is my hope that this decision will allow the Tucson community, and the nation, to continue the healing process free of what would likely be extended trial and pretrial proceedings that would not have a certain outcome. The prosecutors and agents assigned to this matter have done an outstanding job and have ensured that justice has been done," said U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

"In making the determination not to seek the death penalty, I took into consideration the views of the victims and survivor families, the recommendations of the prosecutors assigned to the case, and the applicable law," he added.

Tucson News Now will update this story as it develops. Watch KOLD News 13 and Fox 11 Tucson Now for our team coverage.

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