Loughner Pleads Guilty to Tucson Shootings, Avoids Death Penalty

     TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) – Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty Tuesday to the attempted assassination of former Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords, and to killing six people and wounding 13 others in a mass shooting in 2011.
     In doing so, the 23-year-old will avoid the death penalty but will likely spend the rest of his life in federal prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 15 in Tucson.
     “I truly believe that justice was done today,” Congressman Ron Barber told reporters after the hearing.
     Barber, Giffords’ former district supervisor, was injured in the Jan. 8, 2011 attack and has since taken over her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
     Wearing prison khakis and speaking in a slow, slightly slurred voice, Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including the attempted assassination of Giffords; the murders of U.S. District Court Chief Judge John M. Roll and Congressional Aide Gabriel M. Zimmerman; the attempted murders Barber and Pamela K. Simon; and causing the deaths of Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy J. Morris, Phyllis C. Schneck and Dorwan C. Stoddard.
     Forensic psychologist Christina Pietz, who diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia last year, testified prior to the plea hearing that Loughner is now competent to stand trial after being medicated for more than a year at a federal facility in Missouri. She said he no longer hears voices, no longer paces incessantly and even has a job making “towel rolls” for other inmates.
     “He loves his job,” Pietz said. “It’s something he’s sucessful at.”
     Pietz also testified that Loughner has developed something of a friendship with one of his guards, a comment that elicited a rare smile from Loughner.
     U.S. District Judge Larry Burns mentioned the smile when, just before declaring him competent, he said Loughner “is a different person” from the man who first appeared before him last year.
     Pietz cautioned that Loughner still has “situational depression” and is still on suicide watch.
     “He’s going to somehow have to learn to live with what he did,” she said.
She said Loughner has expressed remorse for the attack on several occasions, at one point saying, “I wish I wouldn’t have had those thoughts.”

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