Jared Lee Loughner was charged with killing six people in a Jan. 8 shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, as U.S. prosecutors broadened their case to include victims who weren’t federal employees.
Loughner, 22, was charged today in a 49-count grand jury indictment with the murder of U.S. District Judge John M. Roll and Gabriel M. Zimmerman, an aide to U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, as well as the slaying of four other Arizona residents who attended Giffords’s community meeting outside a Tucson supermarket.
The four people killed who weren’t federal employees, including a 9-year-old girl, were participating in a “federally provided activity,” U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix said today in a statement. Loughner may face the death penalty if convicted on the murder charges, according to the statement.
“These final four Arizonans’ lives were extinguished while exercising one of the most precious rights of American citizens, the right to meet freely and openly with their member of Congress,” Burke said in the statement.
The indictment follows an earlier one in which Loughner was charged with attempting to assassinate Giffords, who survived a gunshot through the head, and the attempted murder of two of her aides at the community meeting. Loughner pleaded not guilty to those charges on Jan. 24.
The revised indictment also charges Loughner with using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, causing death through the use of a firearm, and injuring the meeting participants who weren’t federal employees.
March 9 Hearing
Larry A. Burns, the San Diego-based federal judge who was assigned to the case after U.S. judges in Arizona recused themselves, has set a hearing in Tucson for March 9, when Loughner is expected to answer to the new charges. Burns has said he wants the trial to start no later than Sept. 20.
The significant expansion of the case may make a September trial date overly ambitious, Marcellus McRae, a trial lawyer with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Los Angeles and a former federal prosecutor, said in a telephone interview.
“It certainly reflects a desire by the government to be comprehensive,” McRae, who isn’t involved in the case, said.
It is possible prosecutors will streamline the case and not bring duplicative charges, such as the numerous counts of using a firearm in committing a violent crime, so as not to confuse jurors, McRae said.
Loughner’s lawyers, in a filing today after the new indictment was filed, asked Burns to wait on setting a trial date until after prosecutors have said whether they will seek the death penalty. Alternatively, the lawyers asked for a trial date in January of 2013.
The lawyers said they will need to conduct a thorough life history investigation of Loughner to arrive at a reliable mental health evaluation.
“Because we are at an early stage in the investigation that will be required to gain an understanding of the depth of Mr. Loughner’s mental afflictions and their impact on his functioning in the world, we can only estimate the time it will take to be adequately prepared for trial,” the lawyers said.
Judy Clarke, Loughner’s lead lawyer, didn’t immediately return a call to her office.
13 People Wounded
Roll and Zimmerman were among those killed before bystanders tackled the suspect. Thirteen people were wounded. Roll, 63, was the chief judge of Arizona federal court. He had gone to the meeting to thank Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, for her help with the shortage of jurists in the state.
Loughner told police he was “taking the Fifth,” a reference to his constitutional right not to incriminate himself, after he was arrested, his lawyers said in a March 1 court filing. That filing was a request for a court order barring prison officials from providing their observations of Loughner’s behavior in prison to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The case is U.S. v. Loughner, 11-00187, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).