Loughner sentenced to life without parole for Arizona shootings

Raquel Erhard – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Tucson, AZ, United States (4E) – Jared Loughner, the 24-year-old gunman who pleaded guilty in the 2011 shooting that killed six people and injured former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others, was sentenced Thursday in Arizona to life without parole.

Loughner stared into the eyes of Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly in a courtroom when they told him: “You tried to create a world as dark and evil as your own. Remember this: You failed.”

Kelly spoke for Giffords at the sentencing of Loughner who murdered six and wounded 13 during a shooting binge in a supermarket parking lot near Tucson on January 8, 2011. He added that, “Gabby would trade her own life for one you took on that day.”

Loughner received a sentence of seven consecutive life sentences and 140 years.

Other victims of Loughner also spoke the hearing, divulging the effect of the incident to their families and their lives, before the judge formally declared a sentence on Loughner.

Christina Pietz, prison psychologist, who revealed she interacts everyday with Loughner, said his mental health is steadily improving.

Pietz believed the accused to be competent to understand the proceedings against him and to proceed with sentencing despite his mental illness.

Loughner refused to make a statement.

His parents were seated in the front row of the courtroom.

Under the plea agreement imposed by prosecutors and defense attorneys in August, Loughner will stay behind bars for the rest of his life in prison, presumably in a federal prison psychiatric ward.

He pleaded guilty to 19 charges in exchange for the life sentence to avoid the death penalty. He was facing more than 50 federal charges.

Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet event in Tucson when Loughner fired and shot her in the head. She survived but resigned from her position in Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery.

Prosecutors said Loughner also pleaded guilty to the attempted murders of federal employees and congressional aides, 65-year-old Ronald S. Barber and 63-year-old Pamela K. Simon. He also admitted killing 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, 76-year-old Dorothy “Dot” J. Morris, 79-year-old Phyllis C. Schneck, and 76-year-old Dorwan C. Stoddard.

Loughner also claimed using a Glock pistol to hurt 10 participants at an activity headed by the U.S. government and creating a grave risk of death to 13 more people.

Aside from Giffords, the rest of the wounded include Mavy Stoddard (Dorwan’s wife); George Morris (Dorothy’s husband); Susan Hileman (Christina-Taylor’s neighbor); Gifford staffers Ron Barber and Pam Simon; and event attendees Bill Badger, Kenneth Dorushka, Eric Fuller, Randy Gardner, Mary Reed, James Tucker and Kenneth Veeder.

Prosecutors consented to the plea deal because of Loughner’s history of mental illness and the views of victims and their families. The judge ruled Loughner competent to stand trial last August.

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