Giffords faces killer as he is sentenced to life
Reuters and AP
November 10, 2012, 12:04 am TWN
TUCSON, Arizona -- Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood in federal court to face her would-be assassin on Thursday moments before he was sentenced to life in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including Giffords, last year.
Jared Loughner, 24, a college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, received seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison, without the possibility of parole, under a deal with prosecutors that spared him the death penalty.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed — one for each of the six people who lost their lives, and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords — represented the individuality of the victims.
“He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again,” Burns said before Loughner was led away by federal marshals.
Giffords suffered a head wound in the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting that left her with speech difficulties, a paralyzed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.
One by one, his victims had the chance to tell him how his actions immeasurably changed their lives. They approached the podium to address Loughner, and asked the judge if they could turn to face him.
Loughner told the judge that he would not speak, and sat showing no visible emotion at a table with his attorneys.
Susan Hileman, who was shot three times while trying to save her 9-year-old neighbor, shook as she spoke.
“We've been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your thinking,” she said. “Your parents, your schools, your community, they all failed you. It's all true. It's not enough.”
The last victim to approach the podium was Giffords, causing the courtroom to go quiet and somber.
Giffords did not speak. Her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, spoke on her behalf.
“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 told him, with Giffords standing at his side as she impassively faced her assailant.
Loughner, seated next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke, appeared to gaze back at them without expression.
“Though you are mentally ill, you are responsible for the death and hurt you inflicted,” Kelly told Loughner in a clear, ringing voice. “You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did. But after today ... Gabby and I are done thinking about you.”
Loughner showed no emotion as his sentence was pronounced or during statements delivered in court by several survivors.
Giffords resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recuperation.