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Loughner researched assassins, lethal injection before shootings, official says

Prosecutors may use that information to show that the Tucson suspect wasn't mentally incompetent, the source says.

January 27, 2011|By Richard A. Serrano
  • Jared Lee Loughner, shown in March 2010, researched assassins and lethal injection in the hours before the Tucson shootings, authorities say.
Jared Lee Loughner, shown in March 2010, researched assassins and lethal… (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily…)

Reporting from Washington — Jared Lee Loughner surfed the Internet for information on lethal injection and assassins in the hours before the Tucson shooting rampage, computer information that prosecutors are likely to use as evidence to show he was not mentally incompetent, a federal law enforcement official said Thursday.

Loughner pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court to attempted-murder charges in the shootings of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides. Six people were killed, including a federal judge, and 13 were wounded in the Jan. 8 attack. More indictments on murder charges are expected, and Loughner could face the death penalty if convicted of killing U.S. District Judge John M. Roll.

Loughner was at his parents' home on the computer reading about the federal death penalty and profiles of famous assassins, the law enforcement source said.

"He was up late, the night before and into the morning hours," said the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case.

He added that Loughner's Web traffic was downloaded on a disk and given to his defense attorneys to review when the two sides met Monday in Phoenix for his arraignment.

The official said that Loughner's computer research could help rebuff attempts by the defense to show that he was mentally ill and did not know that it was wrong to shoot Giffords and the others.

"It will go to his state of mind," the official said. "It shows what he was thinking."

More precisely, he said, the computer information suggests that Loughner, 22, intended to commit a federal crime by shooting a congresswoman.

U.S. Atty. Dennis K. Burke indicated earlier this week that the government would probably seek capital punishment, which is carried out by lethal injection.

Prosecutors are expected to seek a second indictment that includes the murder charges and, if Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. agrees, they will seek the death penalty.

"They have to consult with Washington first," a second law enforcement source said. "That's why the federal murder charges have been held back."

State prosecutors in Tucson said they were gathering evidence for their own case against Loughner. They could seek the death penalty as well.

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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