Suspect in Tucson shooting rampage enters plea

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - A federal judge on Wednesday scheduled a May 25 hearing todetermine if the suspect in the Tucson shooting rampage thatcritically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is competent tostand trial.

Jared Lee Loughner, who smiled as he was led into the courtroom,appeared before U.S. District Judge Larry Burns in khaki prisonclothes, his once-shaved head now featuring short, dark hair andside burns.

He pleaded not guilty to a slew of federal charges, includingtrying to assassinate Giffords, attempting to kill two of her aidesand murdering federal judge John Roll and Giffords staffer GabeZimmerman.

Loughner also is charged with causing the deaths of four otherswho weren't federal employees, causing injury and death toparticipants at a "federally provided activity" and using a gun ina crime of violence.

Wednesday's hearing was attended by victims' family members,survivors, reporters and Loughner's own father. Loughner likelywill also face state charges stemming from the Jan. 8 attack at aGiffords event outside a Tucson grocery store.

Prosecutors had asked Burns to commit Loughner to a federalfacility where he could be evaluated by psychologists to determinewhether he suffers from a mental defect that makes him incompetentto stand trial.

Prosecutors said Loughner's menacing Internet postings suggesthe may have mental issues.

The judge scheduled a competency hearing, saying he has concernsabout whether Loughner understands the proceedings.

Burns also approved the release of some records sought by newsorganizations, related to a police search of Loughner's home.

The Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV argued there was no basis forsearch warrant records to remain sealed and that the public had aright to the records. The documents have been sealed since Jan.11.

Loughner's attorneys argued their client's right to a fair trialmight be harmed by the release of the records. The said thedocuments contain potentially inflammatory statements by a lawenforcement officer.

Burns said some of the records will remain sealed, such asinformation that is inflammatory or that will not be admissible attrial.

Loughner's father, Randy Loughner, listened to the proceedingswith his arms crossed, head down and eyes closed.

Also in the crowded courtroom were more than 20 U.S. Marshalsand security personnel, about a dozen family members of victims,and at least two survivors of the shooting spree, Susan Hileman andU.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Bill Badger.

Hileman, 58, was shot three times in the attack. She was holding9-year-old Christina Taylor-Green's hand when the shooting erupted,and Christina was killed.

Badger, 74, was grazed by a bullet in the back of the head. Heis credited with helping to subdue Loughner at the scene.

 


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