Suspect In Tucson Shootings To Be Arraigned
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
An update now on the Tucson shootings and the charges the accused shooter is facing. Though six people died, the first charges against Jared Loughner are for attempted murder, including the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She's now in a Houston hospital for rehabilitation and improving, doctors say.
Back in Arizona, Jared Loughner will appear in court today, arraigned for three charges in federal court in Phoenix.
Here's NPR's Ted Robbins.
TED ROBBINS: Six people were killed at the Congress On Your Corner event January 8th in Tucson, including federal Judge John Roll and nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green. But the three counts handed up against Jared Loughner by a federal grand jury last week were for the attempted murder of Congressman Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides, Ron Barber and Pam Simon. Those are the crimes Loughner's being arraigned on today. Other charges are coming.
David Bruck is a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Virginia specializing in the defense of death penalty cases. He says the attempted murder charges are essentially a way to keep Loughner in custody.
Professor DAVID BRUCK (Law, Washington and Lee University): You can't just put someone in jail indefinitely on the prosecution's say-so. There has to be some judicial determination of whether there's probable cause to hold him. But when the grand jury returns an indictment, that settles that question. That means that the grand jury has found there is probable cause.
ROBBINS: David Bruck has worked with Judy Clarke, Loughner's defense attorney. He says three things will happen today: The judge will read the charges, unless Clarke waives the reading. The judge will explain Loughner's rights to him, and Loughner or his attorney will enter a plea. Bruck says a not guilty plea is probably the only one a judge would take.
Mr. BRUCK: I think it's rather unlikely that a court would accept a guilty plea just days after he's been indicted, because it would be very hard for the court to be satisfied that he really knew what he was doing this quickly.
ROBBINS: Knew what he was doing in court, that is. Whether Jared Loughner knew what he was doing on January 8th is another issue. His lawyers will have to decide whether to try to prove Loughner was insane, or if he's convicted, whether to try to prove it to avoid the death penalty.
Ron Barber has been told that federal and state proceedings could last years. He says he'll be prepared to testify.
Mr. RON BARBER (Aide to Representative Gabrielle Giffords): As you might expect, as all of the victims, we've already been interviewed by the FBI and by the U.S. attorney's office and the county attorney's office. I'm prepared for that, although I don't relish it.
ROBBINS: Barber heads Gabrielle Giffords' congressional district office in Tucson. He's recuperating at home from gunshot wounds to his cheek and to his leg. He says he'll have no trouble remembering what happened. He can't stop thinking about it.
Mr. BARBER: He came right past me as I was standing next to the congresswoman, and with some determination on his face, as I remember, shot her and then others. It was really clear. You know, I was conscious throughout the whole thing. So I remember it all, I think, very well. And that's the - those are the images that just don't stop playing.
ROBBINS: A Pima County sheriff's officer says video taken by cameras at the Safeway grocery store in Tucson show Barber being pushed to safety under a table by federal judge John Roll, who was then shot in the back then killed. Because he was the presiding federal judge for Arizona, other Arizona judges have recused themselves from hearing the Loughner case. So, Judge Larry Burns of the Southern District of California will hear it, though Jared Loughner's defense may ask for the entire case to be moved out of Arizona.
Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.