Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six individuals and injured another 13 at a Tucson Congressional event on Jan. 8, 2011, was sentenced to seven life sentences and 140 years in prison in federal court Thursday morning.
On Aug. 7, Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 charges in exchange for the government not seeking the death penalty. Today, Judge Larry Alan Burns carried out Loughner’s sentencing before a large courtroom crowd, many of whom were directly affected by Loughner’s mass shooting less than two years ago.
Of those present for the sentencing were former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was the prime target of Loughner’s shooting rampage. Giffords, who was shot at point blank range in the head, was assisted by husband Mark Kelly to the podium.
Kelly spoke on behalf of Giffords, directing his dialogue at Loughner.
“You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit,” Kelly said to Loughner, adding that “Gabby would have traded her life” for those killed that fateful day, and would “do anything to heal the bodies and psyches of those affected.”
Kelly spoke of the daily struggles his wife continues to face, as she is paralyzed in one arm, partially blind, and continuing to develop her walking and speaking abilities.
As an advocate for examining the nation’s gun laws, Kelly spoke of the nation’s negligence in doing so.
“There is a political class who is refusing to talk about gun laws…when we’ve had repeated opportunities to do so,” said Kelly, referring not only to the local shooting, but others such as those at Columbine and Aurora, Colo.
Kelly closed his statements by telling Loughner, “You will have decades to contemplate what you did, but after today, after this moment, here and now, Gabby and I are done thinking about you.”
Giffords did not address Loughner, but appeared emotional as Kelly helped her back to her seat.
Mavy Stoddard, whose husband Dorwin Stoddard was among those killed, told Loughner how her life has drastically changed since his death.
“When you shot him, he was saving my life,” she said. “I felt his body give as I was holding him. I believe he heard me say I love you (before he died). You took my life, my love, my reason for living. I am so lonesome. I have no one to hug, no one to talk to, no one to care.”
Still, Stoddard, who also spoke directly to Loughner, said he has her forgiveness.
“I forgive you. I do not hate you. I hate the act you performed.”
Congressman Ron Barber, among the 13 injured, was also firm but forgiving in his address to Loughner. Gabe Zimmerman, Barber’s friend and one of Giffords’ staff members, was of the six killed.
“I’ll never forget seeing one of my dearest colleagues die,” said Barber. “His career was just getting under way, and he was soon to be married. His fiancé Kelly mourns his death. His life was cut short by your action.
“We hold no hatred toward you,” he continued. “But we are angry, and sick at heart for what you have done.”
Barber added that Giffords’ survival has made not only the local community aware of her heroism and spirit, but an entire nation.
Loughner, who, as stated by Judge Burns, has had emotional reactions regarding his actions leading to his sentencing, showed little expression, though he did look each victim in the eye as they spoke.
Loughner’s only three words came early in the trial. When asked by Burns whether the statement of Loughner’s counsel that he did not wish to make a statement was true, Loughner replied, “That is true.”
Many of those who spoke during the hearing voiced their support for the sentencing.
Loughner’s parents were in the courtroom, and his mom was visibly upset throughout the sentencing.
Burns recommended that Loughner continue to be imprisoned in the Springfield, Mo., where he has been housed and forcibly medicated for mental illness. The judge called for continued medical attention of the 24-year-old, who is a diagnosed schizophrenic.
The six killed in the shooting were Chief Judge John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, Christina-Taylor Green, Dorwin Stoddard, Dorothy Morris, and Phyllis Schneck.