US

Gunman pleads not guilty to attempted murder of US congresswoman

Reuters/Joshua Lott

The gunman charged with trying to assassinate a US congresswoman in the state of Arizona has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder. Jared Lee Loughner’s lawyer said he denied trying to kill congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides.

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A federal grand jury indicted Loughner last week on three counts of attempted murder of Giffords and aides Pam Simon and Ron Barber.

Further charges are expected, as six people were killed – including a federal judge - when Loughner opened fire on a public meeting being held by Giffords outside a grocery store in Tucson.

Doctors say Giffords, who was shot in the head, is recovering. She was transferred to a hospital in Houston, Texas, to be closer to her family.

Loughner's lawyer, Judy Clarke, downplayed the prospect that Loughner might plead not guilty based on his mental condition.

"We are not raising the issue of competency at this time,” she told judge Larry Burns at the US federal courthouse in Phoenix.

Burns, a California federal judge, is presiding over the trial after all of Arizona’s federal judges were disqualified because of the risk they could be biased judging the death of one of their colleagues.

Clarke said she did not object to the trial being held in Tucson, rather than in Phoenix.

A further case hearing is scheduled for 9 March.

Clarke represented the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who received a life sentence without parole for a 20-year mail bombing spree. She also represented Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of being a conspirator in the 11 September, 2001, World Trade Centre attacks.

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