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Jared Loughner expected to plead guilty in Tucson shootings

Loughner was declared unfit to stand trial after the 2011 Arizona rampage that killed six people and wounded 13, including Gabrielle Giffords. A reported plea bargain could mean a life sentence.

A year and a half after the Arizona shooting rampage that killed six people and wounded 13, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the suspected shooter is reportedly set to enter a plea bargain.

At a hearing Tuesday, a court-appointed psychiatrist is expected to testify that Jared Lee Loughner is mentally competent to enter a plea. Assuming the judge accepts that judgement, Mr. Loughner would then plead guilty to murder and attempted murder, in exchange for a life sentence.

In March 2011, Loughner pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges from the shooting, which occurred at a January political event with Congresswoman Giffords outside a Tucson supermarket.

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US District Judge Alan Burns, who is presiding over the case, issued a scheduling order Monday that confirms a plea deal has been reached.

Mary Stoddard, whose husband, Dorwan, was killed in the shooting, told the Associated Pressthat she was “just thrilled” at the news, and said she had been hoping for a plea bargain to avoid a lengthy trial.

“I don’t really want the death penalty. I would love to see him either put in a mental institution or life in prison with no parole,” Ms. Stoddard told the AP. Stoddard was wounded in the shooting, but recovered.

In the attack, Giffords, initially reported dead by some news outlets, was severely wounded. She has undergone intensive speech and physical therapy in Houston, which has allowed her to recover far better than anyone expected, but opted to resign from Congress this past January. Ron Barber, a Giffords staffer who was also wounded in the Tucson shooting, won her seat in a special election in June.

Loughner, who suffers from schizophrenia, was previously deemed unfit to stand trial. He has been held at a federal medical center in Missouri, where he has been forcibly medicated, which his lawyers have fought.

Assuming the judge Tuesday accepts the psychiatrist ruling that Loughner is competent, and satisfies himself through questioning that his plea is “knowing and voluntary,” then sentencing would be determined later at another hearing.