No trial, no death penalty
If he's declared competent for trial, Jared Loughner is expected to plead guilty in federal court to 49 charges — including several counts of first-degree murder — on Tuesday. Loughner is the 23-year-old Tucson man accused of killing six and wounding 13 others, including Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Now Giffords, who is still in the Houston area recovering from her serious brain injuries, along with her husband, Mark Kelly, have released their approval of the deal negotiated by the district attorney. In exchange for a guilty plea, Loughner is expected to be spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"We don't speak for all of the victims or their families, but Gabby and I are satisfied with this plea agreement," Kelly said in a statement. "The pain and loss caused by the events of January 8, 2011 are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives."
Avoiding a trial will also spare the prosecution from the possibility that Loughner could be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The shooter was diagnosed with schizophrenia after his arrest in January 2011 and ruled incompetent to stand trial in May of that year.
In the intervening months he has been forcibly medicated at a psychiatric hospital in Missouri, but for him to change his plea to guilty he will have to demonstrate to U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns that he is mentally fit and understands the charges against him.