Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old former college student, has appeared in federal court following the shooting on Saturday at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. The shooting killed five people including John Roll, a federal judge, and injured 19 including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Loughner has been charged in federal court with attempted assassination of a member of Congress, first-degree murder and attempting to kill employees of the federal government. Prosecutors for the State of Arizona are trying to determine whether they can bring charges for the other killings and attempted killings in state court.

Loughner confirmed his identity to the court and was denied bail but did not enter a plea. He stated that he understood the potential punishment for the charges include the death penalty or life imprisonment. He is being represented by Judy Clarke, who has previously defended Theodore Kaczynski (the ‘Unabomber’) and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Surgeons have had to perform emergency surgery on Giffords, including a hemicraniectomy, which involves removing a large section of her skull to reduce the pressure from the swelling in the brain caused by the gunshot wound. Dr. Michael Lemole, one neurosurgeon operating on Giffords said that she was “not out of the woods yet”. He also noted that “swelling can sometimes take three days or five days to maximize. But every day that goes by and we don’t see an increase, we’re slightly more optimistic.” Giffords has been able to respond to basic commands from doctors like holding up two fingers.

Meanwhile, debates rage following allegations that Loughner had a political basis for his attack. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik blamed some extreme rhetoric in the media. “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. This has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in and I think it’s time that we do the soul-searching.”