Tucson Shooter, Loughner, To Spend Life In Prison

Nov 9, 2012
Originally published on November 9, 2012 12:46 pm



Jared Lee Loughner will spend the rest of his life in a federal prison. With many of his victims in the courtroom, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the 24-year-old was sentenced for the shooting rampage last year at a congressional event outside a Tucson grocery store. Six people were killed, 13 others injured. NPR's Ted Robbins was in the courtroom.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Jared Loughner sat quietly at the defense table, declared mentally competent after taking medication to relieve symptoms of the schizophrenia which drove him to commit the mass shooting. Those he wounded and the loved ones of those he killed were in the courtroom. Some stepped forward to recall the horror of January 8th, 2011 and to confront Jared Loughner directly.

Mavy Stoddard described comforting her husband Dorwin as he died in her arms. You took away my life, my love, my reason for living, she said. Loughner's parents sat behind their son, sobbing when Stoddard told Loughner: I do not hate you. I hate the act you performed. Your family is not to blame.

Pam Simon, one of Gabby Giffords' wounded Congressional aides, was once a teacher at the same Tucson middle school Loughner attended. Simon repeated her remarks at a news conference after the hearing.


PAM SIMON: You were a regular kid that liked music.

ROBBINS: Then a common thread among the speakers: the need to better diagnose and treat mental illness.


SIMON: When you were older and the signs of your mental illness became obvious, I can only believe that you wish that someone, a parent, a neighbor, a friend had intervened and gotten you the help you needed before it was too late.

ROBBINS: Another common thread: the need to stop gun violence. In an unusually candid moment from the bench, Federal Judge Larry Burns wondered why people need high-capacity ammunition clips like the ones Loughner bought online. He fired 30 rounds in 30 seconds. The clips were outlawed until 2004, when a federal assault weapons ban expired.

Gabby Giffords' husband Mark Kelly blistered politicians, saying, quote, "We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they're being enforced." Then, he said, after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson and after Aurora, we have done nothing.

Gabby Giffords stood next to her husband in court, her right arm paralyzed and in a sling. The gunshot wound to her head also left her with trouble speaking, so Mark Kelly spoke for both of them. Gabby would trade her own life to bring back any one of those you savagely murdered on that day, he said. You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but after today, after this moment, here and now, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.

Ron Barber, another wounded Giffords' aide and the man who succeeded her in Congress, stood with his wife and two daughters, He recalled those killed, including Congressional aide Gabe Zimmerman, nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green and Federal Judge John Roll. Then he turned to Loughner. Here he is later, repeating what he said.


REPRESENTATIVE RON BARBER: I hold no hatred for you, but I am very, very angry and sick at heart about what you did and the hurt you have imposed on all of us. I told him that he must now live with this burden and will never see outside of a prison again.

ROBBINS: Jared Loughner was sentenced to seven life terms - six for murder and one for the attempted assassination of a member of Congress - plus 140 years for the other attempted murders. He was spared the death penalty in a plea agreement most of the victims had approved with the federal court. The local county attorney says she won't seek further charges.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.


INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.