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Not guilty plea is entered for Jared Loughner in Tucson attacks

The suspect smiles through a court appearance in which he is arraigned on charges that he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides in the shooting rampage that killed six.

January 25, 2011|By Nicholas Riccardi, Los Angeles Times
  • Jared Lee Loughner in his booking photo. He was arraigned on charges that he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides in the Tucson shooting rampage.
Jared Lee Loughner in his booking photo. He was arraigned on charges that… (Pima County Sherri's Office )

Reporting from Phoenix — His hands and feet shackled, Jared Lee Loughner on Monday shuffled into the special proceedings courtroom in the federal courthouse here to answer charges that he tried to assassinate U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during a shooting rampage that killed six.

He was beaming.

Loughner, 22, continued to flash an uncanny, self-satisfied grin throughout the otherwise routine nine-minute arraignment. He sat down and leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. He glanced at the domed room, normally used for naturalization ceremonies or other special events, and his smile got even broader. His attorney, Judy Clarke, whispered something to him. Loughner chortled.

Clarke asked U.S. District Court Judge Larry A. Burns to enter a plea for her client. Burns recorded Loughner as pleading not guilty. Loughner stared straight ahead and kept smiling.

A grand jury had indicted Loughner in the Jan. 8 shooting of Giffords and two of her aides at a Tucson shopping center. More charges are expected in the slayings of Gabriel Zimmerman, a Giffords staffer, and John M. Roll, the presiding judge of the federal courthouse in Tucson. Those charges could make Loughner eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.

Monday's hearing was Loughner's second court appearance since the attack. In a mug shot released on the day of his prior appearance, he sported a shaved head and deep smile. Some of his hair has grown back since then. On Monday he wore glasses, an orange jumpsuit and canvas sneakers.

All Arizona judges have recused themselves from the case, so it is being heard by Judge Burns of San Diego. Legal observers expect the case to pivot on an insanity defense. Loughner left behind a trail of disjointed writings, and numerous friends and acquaintances have said they thought he was mentally unstable.

Burns asked Clarke if her client's state of mind enabled him to understand the charges and her job representing him. "We are not raising that issue at this time," said Clarke, a veteran capital-defense attorney who also represented Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph. Both escaped death and are serving life sentences.

Clarke said she did not object to a motion by federal prosecutors to move later hearings back to Tucson, although legal observers expect her to eventually try to have the trial moved out of state. Prosecutors said they have turned over to Clarke 45 discs worth of material taken from Loughner's computer and 250 interviews with witnesses.

Then Burns adjourned the hearing, and U.S. marshals led Loughner back to his cell.

nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com

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