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In determining an actual sentence should Mr. Loughner be convicted, Mr. Burke said Judge Burns also will consult U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges. He said the judge, however, is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.

Mr. Burke said the procedure in any case that could result in a punishment of death requires a “careful and deliberate process,” and includes consultation with the victims of the crimes and their families, consideration of all evidence relevant to guilt and punishment, including aggravating and mitigating evidence, and consultation with all the law enforcement agencies investigating the case.
Also, in order to pursue the death penalty, he said his office must provide information to the Capital Review Committee, which oversees complex rules set up by the Justice Department. The committee will review a variety of factors - including motive, intent, aggravating factors, criminal records and impact statements - and make a recommendation to the attorney general.

In Mr. Loughner’s case, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., must then personally give his approval to proceed. The process remains confidential until the attorney general makes a decision, which is binding on his prosecutors.