Jared Lee Loughner has been sentenced to seven consecutive life terms for killing six and wounding thirteen, including former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords at a meet-and-greet in Arizona last year.
Jared Loughner, the young Tucson, Arizona, man accused of shooting then Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing six people (including a 6-year-old girl), and wounding other 13, will plead guilty Tuesday, according to a court-appointed psychologist who will testify at the hearing that Loughner is mentally competent to stand trial and plead guilty.
The new development modifies a previously scheduled status hearing that has been changed to a “change-of-plea” hearing. Loughner is expected to agree to a life sentence under the plea deal.
Loughner’s psychologist had said in February that his patient had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which had disabled the accused Arizona shooter from being able to stand trial for the January 2011 mass-shooting at a Tucson grocery store’s parking lot where then Rep. Giffords was seriously injured, resulting in brain damage. The former congresswoman had to resign to her seat in Congress, to focus full time in her miraculously albeit difficult and slow recovery.
However, in May 2011, District Judge Larry Burns declared Mr. Loughner not competent to stand trial and ordered that he be held in federal custody until he could be restored to competency. Loughner, 23, is charged with 49 criminal offenses including first-degree murder over the shooting rampage. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf last year.
If Judge Burns determines at Tuesday's hearing that Loughner is fit for trial, the accused shooter -- who is being forcibly medicated to treat his psychosis -- could face the death penalty if found guilty.
Tuesday's hearing will be Loughner's fourth to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Judge Burns ordered the hearing in June at the request of prosecutors and defense attorneys who wanted a status report after more than a year of treatment and legal wrangling over his mental competency. Loughner has been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he is forcibly medicated -- against his will.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat formerly seen as a rising star in the party, was holding one of her regular "Congress On Your Corner" events at a Tucson supermarket in January 2011 when she was shot through the head at close range.