Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty Tuesday to the Tucson shooting attack last year that killed six people and wounded 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A federal judge concluded that Loughner understands at this time that he’s responsible for opening fire during a congressional constituent meeting in a parking lot.
Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 of the 49 charges against him. “I plead guilty,” he said over and over in court, acknowledging that he killed a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge and seriously wounded Giffords and a dozen other people.
The plea arrangement – struck between federal prosecutors and defense attorneys after months of legal debate over Loughner’s mental capacity – sets the stage for a likely prison sentence of life without parole.
The defense wanted the government to agree not to seek the death penalty, and it received that assurance under the plea agreement.
The outcome was welcomed by some victims, including Giffords, as a way to move on.
“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable,” Giffords said in a joint statement with her husband, Mark Kelly. “Avoiding a trial will allow us – and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community – to continue with our recovery.”
Loughner is to be sentenced Nov. 15.
Prosecutors had initially considered the death penalty for Loughner, while defense lawyers had sought to prove him mentally unstable to stand trial. The wrangling put his criminal trial on hold for months as psychiatric experts evaluated him during sessions at a federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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