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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Loughner to Be Sentenced for Fatal Shooting Spree

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) - Admitted mass-murderer Jared Lee Loughner will be sentenced today, nearly two years after he killed six people and wounded 13 during a political gathering.

Loughner pleaded guilty in August to the attempted assassination of former Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords, and to killing six people and wounding 13 others on Jan. 8, 2011, during a Congress on Your Corner event. Lauded by the survivors and victims' family members, the plea agreement allows the mentally disturbed 23-year-old to avoid the death penalty. He is expected spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including the attempted assassination of Giffords; the murders of Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll and Congressional Aide Gabriel Zimmerman; the attempted murders Barber and Pamela Simon; and causing the deaths of 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck and Dorwan Stoddard.

Loughner initially pleaded not guilty and has spent most of the time since in a Bureau of Prisons facility in Springfield, Mo., being treated for schizophrenia.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns three times declared Loughner incompetent to stand trial. Doctors at the facility soon determined that Loughner was a danger to himself and others and began to forcibly medicate him, setting off a protracted battle in the 9th Circuit. In March, a split panel of the federal appeals court found that the government did not violate Loughner's civil rights when it forced him to take antipsychotics.

Forensic psychologist Christina Pietz, who first diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia, said in August that Loughner would now be competent to stand trial had he not pleaded guilty. While he still suffers from depression, he no longer hears voices and no longer paces incessantly, Pietz said.

At the same hearing, Judge Burns said that Loughner was "a different person" from the man who first appeared before him last year, when the gunman disrupted his first competency hearing with an incoherent outburst.

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