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Jared Loughner gets life in prison for Tucson shooting massacre

3:35 PM, Nov 8, 2012   |    comments
Jared Lee Loughner's booking photo
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The man who killed six people and wounded 13 others in an Arizona shooting rampage was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty three months ago to 19 federal charges under an agreement that guaranteed he would spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

The deal called for the dismissal of 30 other charges from the January 2011 attack at a political event for then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store.

The 24-year-old entered the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Larry Burns shackled and wearing a brown striped shirt instead of a prisoner's uniform, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports from inside the courthouse.

Unlike his booking photos that showed him with a bald head, Loughner had a short haircut in court Thursday.

"Yes, sir," Loughner said in a soft voice when Burns asked if it was true that he wouldn't make a statement, Blackstone reports.

Some of Loughner's victims did address the court, at times speaking directly to him.

With Giffords by the side of her husband, Mark Kelly, the former astronaut told the court that her ability to speak has largely been taken from her, that she's blind in one eye and that she struggles to walk, Blackstone reports.

"Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered," Kelly said. "Every day is a continuous stuggle to do those things she once was so good at."

Loughner showed no emotion, and looked at the other victims. His mother sobbed nearby.

"Mr. Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place," Kelly said.

Kelly also criticized Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and legislators for not enacting tighter gun control laws in the wake of the shooting.

Giffords kissed Kelly when he was done. He grabbed her hand and they walked away, with her limping.

"You pointed a weapon and shot me three times," Suzi Hileman said, staring directly at Loughner. He looked back at her. "And now I walk out of this courtroom and into the rest of my life, and I won't think of you again."

Hileman was shot while trying to save her 9-year-old neighbor, Christina Taylor Green. Patricia Maisch, who helped disarm Loughner, told the court that Green deserved justice and Loughner needed to know every day he wakes up why he is in prison, Blackstone reports.

"I have wanted to take you by the shoulders and shake you, but it wouldn't do any good," Hileman told Loughner.

Both sides reached the plea deal after a judge declared that Loughner was able to understand the charges against him. After the shooting, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.

Some victims, including Giffords, welcomed the deal as a way to move on. It spared victims and their families from having to go through a potentially lengthy and traumatic trial and locks up the defendant for life.

Christina Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist who treated Loughner, had warned that although Loughner was competent to plead guilty, he remained severely mentally ill and his condition could deteriorate under the stress of a trial.

When Loughner first arrived at a Missouri prison facility for treatment, he was convinced Giffords was dead, even though he was shown a video of the shooting. He eventually realized she was alive after he was forcibly medicated.

It's unknown whether Pima County prosecutors, who have discretion on whether to seek the death penalty against Loughner, will file state charges against him. Stephanie Coronado, a spokeswoman for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, said Wednesday that no decision had been made.

It's unclear where Loughner will be sent to serve his federal sentence. He could return to a prison medical facility like the one in Springfield, Mo., where he's been treated for more than a year. Or he could end up in a prison such as the federal lockup in Florence, Colo., that houses some of the country's most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

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