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Jared Lee Loughner Case: Feds Add Murder Charges, Potential Death Penalty

3 years ago
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The federal government's case against Jared Lee Loughner got bigger and more serious Friday after a grand jury returned a new, 49-count indictment charging the Tucson, Ariz., shooting suspect with multiple first-degree murder charges for his alleged role in the deadly Jan. 10 attack. A new arraignment in the case is set for March 9.

Six people, including Arizona Chief District Judge John M. Roll, were killed, and 14 others, including Rep. Gabrielle Gifford (D-Ariz.), were wounded when Loughner, 22, allegedly began shooting a semi-automatic weapon inside a supermarket during one of Rep. Giffords' public meetings in the Tucson area. The incident was reportedly recorded on store videotape. Loughner was arrested at the scene after he was tackled by bystanders.

The two federal murder charges contained in the superseding indictment make Loughner eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted. However, under longstanding Justice Department guidelines, Attorney General Eric Holder still must determine whether federal prosecutors intend to seek capital punishment for the man they say killed Judge Roll and Gabriel M. Zimmerman, one of the members of Rep. Giffords' staff. Federal officials said Friday that they were in the process of undertaking that review. There are currently 60 prisoners on federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

A statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona, issued in connection with the public release of the new indictment, read: "The deceased are not the only ones whose rights are being defended. Those citizens who were peaceably assembled to speak to their Member of Congress are also named as victims in the indictment." There was no immediate word from Loughner's attorneys. Loughner remains in federal custody in Tucson.

The federal grand jury also added new charges against Loughner relating to the deaths of the four other people slain in the attack who were not federal employees. Loughner is charged also with attempting to murder Rep. Giffords, who was shot in the head and who is now undergoing rehabilitation in Houston. The initial federal indictment against Loughner, handed up on Jan. 19, included only attempted murder charges.

Loughner's arraignment next week in Tucson will be presided over by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns, who normally presides in San Diego. Judge Burns was selected to handle the case after all of Arizona's federal trial judges recused themselves from the case because of the death of Judge Roll. Loughner is represented by Judith Clarke, a veteran defense attorney whose former clients include the Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the terror conspirator involved in the 9/11 attacks.

The scope of the new indictment assures that state charges against Loughner will be delayed pending the resolution of the federal case. Officials with the Pima County Attorney's Office, which has local jurisidiction over the case, have promised to pursue such charges.

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