With Giffords In Courtroom, Jared Loughner Sentenced To Life In Prison

In this artist rendering, Jared Lee Loughner, right, makes a court appearance with his lawyer, Judy Clarke, at the Sandra Day O'Connor United States Courthouse in Phoenix, Ariz. in January. (AP)

Update at 2:13 p.m. ET. Life In Prison:

Jared Loughner, the 24-year-old who pleaded guilty to killing six people and wounding 13 others during a shooting spree at a congressional meet-and-greet in Tucson, Ariz., will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Loughner was sentenced today as a U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz.

Before the judge handed down his punishment, victims and their families addressed Loughner and the court.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head during her event, looked directly at Loughner, according to reporters tweeting the proceedings.

Her husband, the former astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke for her, according to Ryan Haarer a reporter for KVOA.

"Everyday is a continuous struggle to do the things she was once so very good at," Kelly said as Giffords looked directly at Loughner. Kelly said that his wife struggles to walk, is "partially blind" and her arm is paralyzed.

"Mr. Loughner, by making death and producing tragedy, you sought to extinguish the beauty of life. To diminish potential. To strain love. And to cancel ideas. You tried to create for all of us a world as dark and evil as your own," Kelly said according to his prepared remarks. "But know this, and remember it always: You failed."

Kelly added: "Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place."

Other victims said they understood that Loughner did not choose to have a mental disorder, but they did not understand his actions. Some of them said the mental health system let him down.

Suzie Hileman, the neighbor who took nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, Loughner's youngest victim, to the event, told Loughner that she did not want to be standing at the sentencing.

"I don't want to be here at all," she said. Then she looked at Loughner and told him it was all "because of you."

"I forgive you," Hileman said. "But not the act."

According to the reporters tweeting the hearing, Loughner sat through each statement without showing emotion. Haarer reported that he did not take his eyes off each speaker, looking "seemingly engaged."

Federal Judge Larry Burns said Loughner was not insane at the time of the crime. "He knew what he was doing," Burns said according to The Arizona Republic's Wendy Halloran. So, he has no insanity defense.

That's why Burns handed down a symbolic and "astronomical" sentence of seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years.

Kelly finished his statement saying that Loughner will have decades to think about what he did.

"But after today. After this moment. Here and now," he said. "Gabby and I are done thinking about you."

Our Original Post Continues:

Jared Loughner, the 24-year-old man who plead guilty to killing six people and wounding 13 others during a shooting spree at a congressional meet-and-greet in Tucson, will be sentenced shortly.

Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman from Arizona, who was shot in the head, is present at the hearing going on now in a U.S. District Court.

With his plea deal, Loughner will avoid the death penalty. But The Arizona Republic reports that Loughner is expected to be sentenced to life.

The paper adds:

"Thursday, Loughner, now 24, will be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Tucson. Under terms of the plea agreement hammered out by prosecutors and defense attorneys in August, Loughner will spend the rest of his life in prison, and given his fragile mental state, most likely in a federal prison psychiatric ward.

"Neither prosecutors nor defense attorneys are forthcoming with the details of the hearing, nor with the case in general."

The paper is also tracking live tweets from the hearing. If you want to follow along, see this page.

Update at 1:41 p.m. ET. Criticizes Brewer:

During his statement, Kelly criticized leaders like Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Here's a bit of what Kelly said, according to his prepared remarks:

"In this state we have elected officials so feckless in their leadership that they would say, as in the case of Governor Jan Brewer, 'I don't think it has anything to do with the size of the magazine or the caliber of the gun.' She went on and said, 'Even if the shooter's weapon had held fewer bullets, he'd have another gun, maybe. He could have three guns in his pocket' – she said this just one week after a high capacity magazine allowed you to kill six and wound 19 others, before being wrestled to the ground while attempting to reload. Or a state legislature that thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy occurred, instead of doing the work it was elected to do: encourage economic growth, help our returning veterans and fix our education system.

"The challenges we face are so great, but the leadership in place is so often lacking. In so many moments, I find myself thinking, 'We need Gabby.' In letter after letter, I've seen that others agree. As Americans mourned the six who died, they also mourned the loss of a representative who embodied the service they realized they should expect from those they elect, the type of person our county desperately needs to provide leadership and solve problems. Gabby was a courageous member of congress. Willing to stand up to the establishment when the establishment was wrong. She was thirsty for partnership across the aisle and was an unrelenting champion for her 600,000 constituents. One of which was you."

Update at 1:03 p.m. ET. Kelly Addresses Loughner:

According to several reporters tweeting the proceeding, Kelly is now addressing Loughner.

"Everyday is a continuos struggle to do the things she was once so very good at," Kelly said as Giffords looked directly at Loughner. Kelly said that his wife struggles to walk, is "partially blind" and her arm is paralyzed.

"You tried to create a world as dark and evil as your own," Kelly said according to the Arizona Republic's Sean Holstege. "Remember this: You failed."

According to Ryan Haarer of KVOA, Kelly added: "You may have put a bullet in her head but you haven't put a dent in her spirit."

Update at 12:32 p.m. ET. Giffords Is Back:

The New York Times' Fernanda Santos tweets that after leaving the courtroom, Giffords is back.

Wendy Halloran, of KPNX, is also tweeting the hearing. She reports that Suzie Hileman, the neighbor who took the youngest victim to the event, told Loughner that she did not want to be standing at the hearing.

"I don't want to be here at all," she said. Then she looked at Loughner and told him it was all "because of you."

Update at 12:23 p.m. ET. 'Loughner Is Competent':

Fernanda Santos, a correspondent for The New York Times, is tweeting the proceedings. She reports that a forensic psychologist treating Loughner said he was competent enough to proceed.

Giffords, reports Santos, left the court room "as second witness testified, not even 20 min into the hearing. Seems like she couldn't take it."

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To Tucson now and an emotional scene in federal court. Victims and their families confronted the man responsible for a shooting rampage last year in which six people were killed and 13 wounded.

Jared Lee Loughner was sentenced to seven life terms plus 140 years. Among those who spoke, the husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was among those wounded and was herself in the courtroom today. NPR's Ted Robbins was there, and he joins me now. And, Ted, we mentioned a lot of emotion. Why don't you describe the scene today in court?

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Yeah. Melissa, the victims, you know, court personnel, even reporters who've been covering the story were so genuinely happy to see each other. A lot of smiles and handshakes. But once the proceedings began and people started telling their stories, it was like being dragged back to January 8, 2011. It was emotional.

BLOCK: We mentioned that Gabby Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, was among those who spoke today. Who else spoke? What did they say?

ROBBINS: Well, you know, I counted 10 people. Some shooting victims, those who lost parents or partners spoke. And Gabby Giffords stood with her arm in a sling next to her husband, Mark Kelly. She had difficulty speaking, so he spoke for both of them.

There was a theme for most of the speakers. They recounted the hurt, the need for better mental health diagnoses and care. Loughner had schizophrenia. And many of the people, a number of them, including the judge, talked about a need to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, and would have outlawed the sale of large ammunition clips, which Loughner used to fire more than 30 shots in less than a minute.

I mean, here's a quote from Mark Kelly: "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 are being enforced." Then he had - he directly addressed Jared Loughner. 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.

After sentencing, there was a news conference. Ron Barber, who was the Giffords staffer who was shot and then succeeded her in Congress, he repeated some of what he said to Loughner directly. Here it is.

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 (unintelligible) imposed on all of us. I told him that he must now live with this burden and he'll never see outside of a prison again.

BLOCK: Ted, was there any reaction from Jared Loughner as these people addressed him in court?

ROBBINS: Yeah. He just sat there. It was hard to tell because no one told us. But the way he looked, he may have been sedated. He's been on meds. A couple of times, he sighed, slumped in his chair. His parents behind him, though, and his father at least was - he was visibly sobbing at points.

BLOCK: Ted, you live in Tucson. You've been covering this case from the beginning. Do you have a sense of what today's sentencing might mean for the victims and for the community there?

ROBBINS: You know, I think the judge put it best, Judge Larry Burns, federal judge. He said in court - and I'm sort of paraphrasing now - he said, you know, many people might have been looking for emotional closure today, but the best that he could offer was a judicial resolution.

BLOCK: OK. NPR correspondent Ted Robbins in Tucson. Ted, thanks very much.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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