(Tuscon, AZ) Jared Lee Loughner has pleaded guilty to going on a rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that left six dead and wounded then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others.
Loughner’s plea Tuesday allows him to avoid the death penalty in a mass shooting that gained worldwide attention in January 2011 because his intended target was the congresswoman. Among the dead were Arizona’s chief federal judge and a Giffords’ aide.
Federal Judge Larry A. Burns had found that Loughner was mentally unfit to stand trial. He ruled on Tuesday that months of forcibly medicating him to treat his schizophrenia made him competent to understand the gravity of the charges against him and assist in his own defense.
Loughner is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Earlier Tuesday, in a joint statement released with her husband, Mark Kelly, Giffords said she was satisfied with the expected plea agreement, and she hopes it will allow victims of the mass shooting to move on with their lives.
During the hearing, Loughner’s federal psychologist, Dr. Christina Pietz, testified that Loughner believed and doubted whether Giffords survived the shooting, saying sometimes that there was no way anyone could have survived being shot to the head and other times that he knew she was alive.
“‘If this is true, Jared is a failure,’” Pietz said Loughner told her.
Experts had concluded that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, and officials at a federal prison have forcibly medicated him with psychotropic drugs for more than a year.
Almost immediately after his arrest, there were questions about Loughner’s mental state, CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports. Soon after the shootings a videotape surfaced on YouTube of Loughner, from behind the camera, ranting as he walked around his college campus, putting his bizarre behavior on public display.
With Loughner’s competency established, a formal change-of-plea hearing followed. That’s when those in the court would hear from Loughner at length for the first time, as the judge questions him about the agreement and changing his plea to guilty.
Burns may ask Loughner to recite his actions in his own words, but either his lawyer or the federal prosecutor could just read the facts of the January 2011 shooting spree at a Tucson supermarket, where Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet with constituents.