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No plea, no bail for Giffords shooting suspect

Loughner not required to enter plea in Phoenix courtroom Monday

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The Tucson man accused of trying to kill U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killing U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll was made his first court appearance Monday afternoon at a federal court in Phoenix.

It was first time the public saw Jared Lee Loughner, 22, since Saturday's mass shooting outside the Safeway store at Oracle and Ina Roads.

Loughner had a shaved head and a cut near his right temple when he entered the courtroom. He wore handcuffs and shackles.

He made no plea when charged.

Loughner responded "Yes" in a strong, clear voice when asked by U.S. Magistrate Lawrence Anderson whether he understood the charges and his right to remain silent.

Loughner is also accused of killing Gabriel Zimmerman, a member of Giffords' staff, and attempting to kill two other staffers: Ron Barber and Pamela Simon.

The judge told Loughner he may face the death penalty if convicted on the murder counts. He might face a life sentence for the attempted assassination of Giffords and up to 20 years for each count of attempted murder, Anderson told him.

A preliminary hearing, or, if Loughner is indicted by a grand jury, an arraignment, is scheduled for Jan. 24. He is expected to enter a plea then.

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Preliminary hearings are set to decide whether charges can go forward. However, federal prosecutors have 30 days in which to present the case to a grand jury for indictment, which, if obtained, would end the need for a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors said they are drafting an indictment against Loughner for presentation to a grand jury.

Detention hearings are set for the opportunity for the defendant to ask to be released pending trial.

However, Loughner is in federal custody and prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty, so the possibility of Loughner being released is remote.

Judith Clarke, one of Loughner's appointed public defenders, agreed not to seek bail for him at the moment.

Loughner's other appointed public defender is Mark Fleming.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona has a dozen prosecutors assigned to the case.

Since one of the victims is a federal judge in Tucson, the federal prosecutors and public defenders are expected to be from out of town, to avoid a conflict of interest.

Complicating that is Roll's position as the chief federal judge in the state. As part of his job, Roll approved the list of Arizona defense attorneys who receive court-appointed work.

Clarke is based in San Diego.

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Clarke stated that all federal prosecutors in Arizona should step down from the case. The judge said if the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona doesn't recuse itself, she would have to file a motion to have the office disqualified in the case.

In addition to the federal charges involving Giffords and Roll, Loughner is also accused of trying to kill two of Giffords' aides, Pamela Simon and Ron Barber.

Unless Loughner does the unexpected and refuses to fight the case, it will be months if not years before the case comes to trial. The trial would likely take place in Phoenix.

State charges are expected to be filed in the deaths of five other victims who died, as well as many others who were wounded. It's likely the state charges also would be heard outside of Tucson, perhaps in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Loughner may also be charged with additional federal charges, including violations of domestic terrorism laws, as the investigation progresses.

"We will consider all appropriate charges at the indictment stage of the case," said the U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke.

"We are devoting all the necessary resources that a case of this magnitude demands," he said. "We are focused and we are determined to achieve justice."

Judith Clarke

A former public defender who now has a private practice, Clarke has previously represented high-profile defendants in death penalty cases, including:

  • Ted Kaczynski, the "Unabomber"
  • Zacarias Moussaoui, the "20th hijacker" in the 9/11 attacks
  • Eric Rudolph, who planted a bomb at the 1996 Olympics
  • Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman convicted of drowning her two sons.

Clarke has a reputation as an expert in cases where the defendent's mental state is an issue.

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1 comment on this story

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269 comments
Jan 11, 2011, 3:25 am
-0 +0

“One hundred percent batshit crazy. And the defense rests, Your honor.”

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