24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole for the Arizona shooting that left six dead and many wounded, including then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Loughner was sentenced under a plea agreement supported by victims, including Giffords.
The hearing marked the first time victims – including Giffords – could confront Loughner in court.
Her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, did all the talking for her, as the couple looked at Loughner and told him how his deadly rampage at the former congresswoman’s political meeting had upended her life.
“Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered,” Kelly said. “Every day is a continuous struggle to do those things she once was so good at.”
Loughner showed no emotion, and looked at the other victims. His mother sobbed nearby.
“Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place,” Kelly said.
Loughner, who is mentally ill, apparently did not believe Giffords was alive until he was forcibly medicated in a Missouri prison facility. After treatment, he was deemed competent to stand trial. However, his condition might not have withstood the lengthy trial necessary for prosecutors to seek the death penalty:
Christina Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist who treated Loughner, had warned that although Loughner was competent to plead guilty, he remained severely mentally ill and his condition could deteriorate under the stress of a trial.
Loughner’s plea bargain only covers the federal charges filed in the case. The state has not yet charged Loughner. If Pima County prosecutors choose to file state charges, the death penalty again becomes a possibility for the apparently remorseless shooter, who showed no emotion when confronted by his victims.