Accused Shooter Appears In Court
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
Twenty-two-year-old Jared Loughner was shackled when he appeared in a federal courtroom in Phoenix today. He was formally charged with five counts, including murder and attempted murder of federal employees. He did not enter a plea.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, whom Loughner allegedly shot through the head on Saturday, remains in critical condition in a Tucson hospital. Doctors are optimistic, but they say that she's not out of the woods yet.
NPR's Martin Kaste was at today's proceedings in Phoenix, and he joins us now from outside the federal courthouse.
And, Martin, this is the first time we've seen Jared Loughner since his alleged shooting spree. How did he look? How did he act?
MARTIN KASTE: Well, he shuffled into the courtroom, sort of took everyone by surprise. The whole courtroom suddenly became quiet as this young man with a shaved head - he has just a very short stumble of hair - shuffled into the room with shackles on. The chains clinking, wearing khaki prison grab. He had a red mark on one of his temples, looked like he's received a bump on his temple at some point. His eyes sort of went wide for a second when he saw this press of reporters and others there waiting to see him, and then, he went very stony.
He replied in mono syllables. He replied yes when it was appropriate to. He had very short answers to the judge when required. While he was standing there in front of the judge, his new attorney was sort of rubbing his back every now and then kind of keeping him focus. She, at one point, whispered to him, are you okay? But he responded to questions appropriately, and he seemed to be very (unintelligible).
SIEGEL: And remind us, again, of the charges that Loughner faces so far.
KASTE: So far, he faces five federal charges. They include murder, attempted murder. And it's interesting on count one, which deals specifically with the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords, they're using the phrase, the term assassination. So he's actually charged with attempted assassination of a member of Congress, and there is a U.S. law referred to there specifically for assassination attempts.
Martin, was anything actually decided during today's appearance?
KASTE: This is very preliminary, very much. Technicalities had to be taken cared of. For one thing, it had to be cleared up who his attorney would be. The public defenders in this area have recused themselves, and he now has for the time being and will probably be confirmed an attorney out of San Diego named Judy Clarke, who is known for taking very difficult defense cases. She represented Ted Kaczynski in the Unabomber case. She was there. She was the person standing with him. The court preliminarily accepted her presence there, and so all the papers are filed.
So it's that kind of thing that's been taken cared of. It was also decided that he will be held without bail. That he's a threat to the community, and they set the next date for his next appearance.
SIEGEL: And as for the investigation of this shooting and as reporters dig in some more, what's the latest that we've learned about Jared Loughner's life?
KASTE: Well, it's still very much bits and pieces or a mosaic coming together. It's pretty clear now that he had been trouble to a number of people in the last few months and maybe a couple of years. His community college, Pima County Community College, he's been suspended this past fall after a number of episodes in which he disrupted classes.
We're told from law enforcement sources that his parents have been called to the college. They've come there to talk about this. It's not clear how seriously they took it. We're also getting some sense that the investigators are moving very quickly as they put together the timeline. For example, it's now clear that he bought quite a bit of ammunition on the morning of the shooting.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Martin.
KASTE: You're welcome.
SIEGEL: NPR's Martin Kaste at the federal courthouse in Phoenix.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.