A federal grand jury in Tucson on Friday returned a 49-count superseding indictment against Jared Lee Loughner in the killing of a federal judge and a congressional staff member, as well as for causing the deaths of four others during an attempt to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at her “Congress on Your Corner” event in January.
Prosecutors indicated that the death penalty could apply in the case.
“The deceased are not the only ones whose rights are being defended,” Mr. Burke said, noting that those citizens who were peaceably assembled to speak to their member of Congress are also named victims in the indictment. He said the indictment involves potential death-penalty charges, and Justice Department rules require his office to pursue a deliberate and thorough process.
“That process is ongoing, and we will continue to work diligently to see that justice is done,” he said.
The indictment also includes allegations brought forward in a previous indictment in January that Mr. Loughner attempted to assassinate Mrs. Giffords, who was shot in the head and is undergoing rehabilitation in Houston, and attempted to murder two federal employees who worked for her, District Director Ronald S. Barber and Community Outreach Coordinator Pamela K. Simon, who were both shot multiple times and are recovering. Mr. Loughner will be arraigned on the new charges at a hearing Wednesday in Tucson before U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns. Mr. Loughner has been held in federal custody since Jan. 8. The Pima County Attorney’s Office also intends to pursue state charges in the case. 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.
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