Loughner Pleads Not Guilty On Federal Charges Jared Loughner, accused of carrying out a deadly mass shooting in Tucson earlier this month, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he tried to kill Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides. Host Michele Norris speaks to NPR's Ted Robbins, who was at the courthouse.

Loughner Pleads Not Guilty On Federal Charges

Loughner Pleads Not Guilty On Federal Charges

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Jared Loughner, accused of carrying out a deadly mass shooting in Tucson earlier this month, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he tried to kill Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides. Host Michele Norris speaks to NPR's Ted Robbins, who was at the courthouse.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

And, Ted, I understand this not guilty plea was not a surprise.

TED ROBBINS: Right, Michele. Lawyers who are - have handled capital cases tell me that it's really unlikely that a judge would accept a guilty plea this soon without any evidence being presented, because the defendant, Loughner, would really not have had a chance to consider the implications of a guilty plea.

NORRIS: Ted, we've all seen that mug shot of Jared Loughner grinning after the shootings. It's an image that is fixed in many people's minds. How did he actually look today?

ROBBINS: His attorney, Judy Clarke, frequently put her hand on his back when asking him questions, sort of seemed to reassure him. And he was alert throughout the proceeding, and he gave a small smile whenever he looked around.

NORRIS: Beyond Loughner, what was the tone like in the courtroom overall?

ROBBINS: It was not full. But it's a huge courtroom, and it was pretty quiet and expectant, I'd say.

NORRIS: Loughner today faced federal charges for trying to assassinate Congresswoman Giffords and two of her aides. And as we said, he entered this not guilty plea. So what comes next?

ROBBINS: Here's what she said.

ANDREA LYON: You need to know family history, medical history, psychological history, drug or alcohol problem, you know, physiological problems and any of those sorts of things first.

ROBBINS: Yeah, a psych evaluation was not brought up today. They may wait till all the charges are brought for that.

NORRIS: Ted, this is a very complicated case with lots of victims and a suspect who is described as having had serious trouble before the shootings. How is the case against him expected to play out? And what will happen in terms of other charges involving other victims?

ROBBINS: Now, we spoke with a former federal prosecutor, Andrew McBride, who told me he did not think that would work at the trial itself.

ANDREW MCBRIDE: Although the insanity defense is not likely to prevail at the guilt phase, it can be effective at the penalty phase to say to the jury: Yes, this man did it, but he was under delusion and he should not be punished with the ultimate punishment. That, I think, is how the case will sort out.

ROBBINS: But then, at the penalty phase, they could give him the death penalty. And, Michele, if the Feds don't get the death penalty for Loughner, you know, the State of Arizona will likely seek it for the other victims. So this whole process could take years.

NORRIS: Ted, thank you.

ROBBINS: You're welcome.

NORRIS: That's NPR's Ted Robbins who joined us from the federal courthouse in Phoenix.

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