United States

First court hearing for congresswoman shooting

Reuters

The man accused of attempting to assassinate congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords appeared in court on Monday. Jared Loughner faces the death penalty for the shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, that left six people dead. No plea was entered during the hearing and a preliminary court appearance was scheduled for 24 January.

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Loughner appeared before the judge Michael Anderson dressed in a brown prison jumpsuit with his head shaven. He followed proceedings closely but said little beyond answering “Yes” to questions from the judge.

The court agreed to Loughner’s request to have lawyer Judy Clarke appointed as his attorney. She previously represented the Unabomber, an anarchist serving life without parole for a 20-year-long mail bombing campaign, and Zacarias Moussaoui, a 9/11 conspirator.

Authorities charged Loughner with murder after he fired a full clip of 31 shots from his 31mm Glock semi-automatic pistol. Giffords, who was shot through the head at point-blank range, was among a crowd of constituents when the accused began shooting. A nine-year-old girl and a federal judge were among the six fatalities.

Giffords remains in a critical condition although doctors say she is still responding to basic commands. United States President Barack Obama led a minute of silence on Monday to honour the 20 people gunned down. He will attend a memorial service on Wednesday.

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