- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2011

The shackled suspected shooter in the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona Democrat, and the killing of six others showed no emotion and said little during a brief court appearance Monday, while the nation mourned and doctors remained optimistic about the congresswoman’s recovery.

His hair and eyebrows shorn, Jared Loughner, 22, answered basic questions, such as whether he understood the charges against him, from Magistrate Judge Lawrence Anderson with a clear “yes.” Judge Anderson called Mr. Loughner “a danger to the community” and ordered him held without bond.

Federal public defender Judy Clarke, who has represented high-profile defendants, including “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, was appointed to represent Mr. Loughner, who faces five federal charges and a possible death sentence. Mr. Loughner, who had a cut on his temple, nodded his head as Ms. Clarke whispered to him during the arraignment.

The shooting, which took place Saturday at a Tucson supermarket during a meet-and-greet with Mrs. Giffords, left dead Arizona’s top federal judge, three senior citizens, an aide to Mrs. Giffords and a 9-year-old girl who recently had won a school election and went to the event because of her interest in government.

Thirteen people who were wounded were expected to survive their injuries, while doctors said Mrs. Giffords, who was shot in the head at close range, was responding to simple verbal commands and her condition, while still critical, has remained stable.

The federal charges Mr. Loughner faces only apply to the shooting of Mrs. Giffords, the killings of U.S. District Chief Judge John M. Roll and Gabriel Zimmerman, a 30-year-old aide of Mrs. Giffords, and the attempted murders of Pamela Simon and Ron Barber, two other Giffords aides. The judge was at the event during the shooting because he had stopped by after Mass to say hello to Mrs. Giffords, a longtime friend.

Federal law does not have jurisdiction over the other killings and shootings, but state authorities have promised to charge Mr. Loughner with those crimes in state court. Those charges would include the killings of Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; Phyllis Scheck, 79, and 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green.

During a news conference held earlier Monday, doctors treating Mrs. Giffords at the University Medical Center in Tucson said she was responding to verbal commands such as to hold her thumbs up or squeeze a doctor’s hand. The doctors said such simple activities imply that different parts of her brain are working and, critically, communicating with one another.

The greatest risk the congresswoman faces is brain swelling.

“Swelling typically peaks around the third day. I’ve seen it go out to as far as 10 days, but most often in the third day. That’s why we’re much, much more optimistic and we can breathe a collective sigh of relief after about the third or fourth day,” said Dr. Michael Lemole, the neurosurgeon who operated on Mrs. Giffords. “We’re getting close.”

At 11 a.m. Monday morning, President Obama led a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting.

“In the coming days, we’re going to have a lot of time to reflect,” Mr. Obama told reporters later. “Right now, the main thing we’re doing is to offer our thoughts and prayers to those who’ve been impacted, making sure that we’re joining together and pulling together as a country.”

Mr. Obama will travel to Arizona on Wednesday to attend a memorial service for the victims.

The Supreme Court paused for a moment of silence between arguments in the two cases it heard Monday morning. And shortly before that, hundreds of House staffers and a sprinkling of congressmen gathered Monday morning outside the Capitol.

The gathering initially was intended for Hill staff members, though several House members joined the event, which took place on the east steps on the House side of the building in windy, cold conditions.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, Missouri Democrat and an ordained United Methodist minister, gave an impromptu blessing for the victims of the attack.

“Help us move from this dark place to a place of sunshine,” Mr. Cleaver said.

Later Monday afternoon, congressional staffers and a handful of House members packed a conference room at the Capitol for a prayer service for the Arizona shooting victims. Some participants wiped tears from red eyes as they exited the service, which was closed to the media.

Before and after the service, Capitol Hill workers and guests lined up to sign condolence books for the victims’ families.

Along with mourning such an enormous tragedy, Mr. Obama said Americans should also focus “on the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events.”

“A 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss, a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage, the citizens who wrestled down the gunman,” he said. “Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence.”

Sean Lengell contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.