Loughner awaits court hearing in Tucson shooting spree - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Loughner awaits court hearing in Tucson shooting spree

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Posted: Monday, January 10, 2011 1:20 pm | Updated: 2:20 pm, Mon Jan 10, 2011.

PHOENIX - A 22-year-old man described as a social outcast with wild beliefs steeped in mistrust faces a federal court hearing Monday on charges he tried to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson shooting rampage that left six people dead.

Dozens of reporters lined up outside a federal courtroom in downtown Phoenix, where the hearing was moved from Tucson after that district's top judge was shot and killed.

Public defenders are asking that the attorney who defended Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski defend Jared Loughner, who makes his first court appearance Monday at 2 p.m. MST (4 p.m. EST).

A military official in Washington said the Army rejected Loughner in 2008 because he failed a drug test. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because privacy laws prevent the military from disclosing such information about an individual's application. The official did not know what type of drug was detected.

Loughner is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee. More charges are expected. Police say he has not been cooperating with investigators.

The hearing in Phoenix comes just a few hours after President Barack Obama, standing with first lady Michelle Obama on the White House South Lawn, presided over a national moment of silence for Giffords and the other victims. Obama said the nation is still shocked and grieving. The White House said Obama called Giffords' husband Mark Kelly - an astronaut - and the family of Christina Taylor Green, a 9-year-old girl killed.

Flight controllers in Houston fell silent as Kelly's twin brother Scott, commander of the International Space Station, spoke via radio from space, leading NASA in a moment of silence.

"As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful," he said. "Unfortunately, it is not."

"We're better than this. We must do better."

Giffords, a conservative Democrat re-elected in November, faced threats and heckling over her support for immigration reform and her office was vandalized the day the House, including Giffords, approved the landmark health care measure.

It was not clear whether those issues motivated the shooter.

The day before Giffords was shot, the congresswoman sent an e-mail to a friend in Kentucky discussing how to "tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."

In the message, obtained by The Associated Press, the Democratic congresswoman on Friday congratulated Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson on his new position at Harvard University.

She wrote: "After you get settled, I would love to talk about what we can do to promote centrism and moderation. I am one of only 12 Dems left in a GOP district (the only woman) and think that we need to figure out how to tone our rhetoric and partisanship down."

In Tucson, about a half dozen people gathered outside Giffords' hospital during the moment of silence. Giffords, 40, remained in intensive care.

On Sunday and Monday, Giffords was able to respond to a verbal command by raising two fingers with her left hand.

"When she did that, we were having a party in there," Dr. Peter Rhee said. And even while sedated, she has reached for her breathing tube. That's a purposeful movement. That's a great thing."

Giffords met Loughner at least once, at an event three years ago when he asked a question.

Authorities weren't saying where Loughner was being held, and officials were working to appoint an attorney for him.

The federal public defender in Arizona has called on San Diego attorney Judy Clarke, a former federal public defender who served on teams that defended McVeigh, a coconspirator in the 1995 Oklahoma bombing and other high profile cases.

"Given the gravity of the charges, the possibility of the death penalty and our discussions with the U.S. attorney's office, we believe that death-qualified counsel must be appointed," said Federal Public Defender Jon Sands. All the attorneys in the Phoenix federal defenders office either declined to take the case or had a conflict, he said.

Prosecutors allege Loughner scrawled on an envelope the words "my assassination" and "Giffords" sometime before he took a cab to a shopping center where the congresswoman was meeting with constituents Saturday morning. Police said he purchased the Glock pistol used in the attack at Sportsman's Warehouse in Tucson in November.

Comments from friends and former classmates bolstered by Loughner's own Internet postings have painted a picture of a social outcast with almost indecipherable beliefs steeped in mistrust and paranoia.

"If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem," he wrote Dec. 15 in a wide-ranging posting.

The six killed included U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; the third grader, Christina Taylor Green, 9; Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79. Of those injured, eight are still hospitalized. One is in critical condition, five are in serious condition, and two are in good condition.

The girl killed was featured in a book called "Faces of Hope" that chronicled one baby from each state born on Sept. 11, 2001. Recently elected to student council, she went to the event because of her interest in government.

Amanda Stinnett, a parent who got teary upon seeing a memorial outside the girl's Tucson school, said her two kids sometimes played together.

"My youngest said, 'She was so nice Mommy. She always let me play with her,'" Stinnett said.

At the same time, she said Christina seemed mature for her age and with a sharp vocabulary.

"It seemed like she was a grown adult."

 

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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