Jared Loughner, the man charged in the January 2011 shooting of then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has pleaded guilty to the shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and 13 others, including the Congresswoman, were wounded. The guilty plea spares Loughner the death penalty, instead paving the way for him to spend the rest of his life in Federal prison without the possibility of parole.
The 23-year-old college dropout has been held in Missouri, where he's been medicated to treat schizophrenia. A Federal Judge had ruled that he was not mentally competent to stand trial, but reversed that ruling on Tuesday after testimony from the court-appointed psychiatrist who has overseen Loughner's treatment. That change in ruling allowed Loughner to enter the guilty plea.
FOX News Radio's Jessica Rosenthal was in the courtroom when Loughner entered the plea and describes the proceedings:
After the Judge found Jared Loughner competent, based on testimony from a psychologist, he moved on to accept his guilty plea. Loughner had to stand, raise his right hand and state his name. He moved slowly, his speech was a tiny bit slurred and monotonous.
The Judge read off all of the charges that he's pleading guilty to, mentioning each victim's name. At certain points, family members in court behind Loughner started to cry. When the Judge said that the plea deal meant no death penalty, Loughner's attorney looked at him - somewhat sharply - as we all did to see his reaction.
In testimony from Loughner's psychologist earlier, we learned that in restoring his mental competency, Loughner actually wasn't forcibly medicated, he took the meds willingly. And we learned that he showed remorse - cried even - at hearing about the crimes he committed.
In Tucson, Jessica Rosenthal, FOX News Radio.
News of the plea deal was welcomed by victims, including Giffords, who has since resigned her seat in the House.
Read a statement from Mark Kelly, husband to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ):
"We don't speak for all of the victims or their families, but Gabby and I are satisfied with this plea agreement. The pain and loss caused by the events of January 8, 2011 are incalculable. Avoiding a trial will allow us - and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community - to continue with our recovery and move forward with our lives."
Attorney General Eric Holder released the following statement after Loughner entered his guilty plea:
"It is my hope that this decision will allow the Tucson community, and the nation, to continue the healing process free of what would likely be extended trial and pre-trial proceedings that would not have a certain outcome. The prosecutors and agents assigned to this matter have done an outstanding job and have ensured that justice has been done. In making the determination not to seek the death penalty, I took into consideration the views of the victims and survivor families, the recommendations of the prosecutors assigned to the case, and the applicable law."