Loughner pleads guilty to Arizona shooting

Posted: August 7, 2012 at 10:25 a.m.
Updated: August 7, 2012 at 2:44 p.m.

In this Jan. 8, 2011, file photo, emergency personnel and Daniel Hernandez, an intern for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, move her after she was shot in the head outside a shopping center in Tucson, Ariz. The shooter. Jared Loughner, plead guilty to 19 of 49 charges in court on Tuesday.

— Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty Tuesday to going on a shooting rampage that left six people dead and wounded his intended target, then-Congresswoman Gabriele Giffords, and 12 others. The plea spares him the death penalty.

Loughner’s plea came soon after a federal judge had found that months of forcibly medicating Loughner to treat his schizophrenia had made the 23-year-old college dropout competent to understand the gravity of the charges against him and assist in his defense.

Under the plea, he will be sentenced to life in federal prison without possibility of parole.

The outcome was welcomed by some victims, including Giffords herself, as a way to avoid a lengthy, possibly traumatic trial and years of legal wrangling over a death sentence.

“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.”

Experts had concluded that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, and officials at a federal prison have forcibly medicated him with psychotropic drugs for more than a year.

Read more on this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.