A U.S. District Judge on Thursday sentenced Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who pleaded guilty to last year's deadly shooting rampage outside a supermarket in the state of Arizona, to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
In August, Loughner had pleaded guilty to 19 charges stemming from the January 8, 2011 shooting outside a Tucson supermarket in which six people, including U.S. District Judge John Roll and a nine-year old girl, were killed.
The shooting incident, which happened at a political event, also left 13 others injured, including former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her former Congressional aide Ron Barber. Giffords was critically injured in the head in the shooting spree.
Loughner's guilty plea was in line with a deal reached with the prosecutors, under which he was spared of the death penalty. In exchange, he agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Delivering the verdict, Judge Larry Burns said six of the life sentences handed down to Loughner represented the six slain victims, the remaining one was for the attempted assassination of Giffords. The judge said the punishment ensured that Loughner "will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again."
Loughner initially faced 49 charges, including first-degree murder, over the shooting. He had pleaded not guilty to the charges last year, and his trial was delayed after he was declared unfit to stand it in May 2001, following an outburst in the courtroom.
Subsequently, Loughner was forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs for more than a year at a prison hospital in Missouri after experts found that he suffered from schizophrenia and delusions. The trial resumed after the judge found the 23-year-old college dropout competent enough to understand the charges and enter a plea.
Thursday's sentencing hearing was attended by Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly. Addressing Loughner in court on behalf of his wife, Kelly said the shooting incident had not dented his wife's spirit despite changing her life for ever.
"You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and commitment to make the world a better place. Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible. You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did, but from this moment, Gabby and I are done thinking about you," he said.
After several months of treatment and therapy at The Memorial Hermmann Hospital in Houston for the injuries sustained in the shooting incident, Giffords was discharged in June 2011. She then moved to the Houston residence of her retired husband, where she has been provided with round-the-clock nursing assistance. She resigned from the Congress in January to concentrate on her ongoing recovery.
by RTT Staff Writer
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