Monday, August 6, 2012

Loughner plea not a sure thing

Jared Loughner intends to enter a guilty plea on Tuesday. Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others last year during shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona. His victims included a nine-year-old girl, a former federal judge and Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords who was holding a constituent event in a supermarket parking lot.

The plea is intended to permit Loughner to avoid the death penalty and is far from a sure thing. The guilty plea must be approved by Judge Larry A. Burns, who is presiding over the case in Federal District Court in Tucson.

Under federal court rules, the judge must be satisfied that a guilty plea is "knowing and voluntary." That will require the judge to ask Loughner a series of questions in open court to make certain that he has the capacity to understand what a guilty plea means, including the fact that he gives up all his appeal rights, reported NBC News.

Loughner was at one time deemed incompetent to stand trial. Psychiatrists who had interviewed Loughner at the time said he had random and disorganized thoughts, offered nonsensical answers to questions and appeared to suffer from schizophrenia.

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