Jared Loughner sat slumped at the defense table in a Tucson federal courtroom yesterday and said over and over in a soft, slightly slurred voice: “I plead guilty.” The Arizona Republic says he said it 19 times as he was asked by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns if he was guilty of crimes in the savage mass shooting at a supermarket last year that claimed the lives of six and wounded 13, including then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
To get the pleas, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. Loughner, 23, would serve life sentences with no chance of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov.15. News of the agreement leaked Saturday, but that did not diminish the intense emotions and compelling testimony at the hearing. Loughner, who was diagnosed as schizophrenic, was found competent by Burns to stand trial. After the hearing, many of the victims said they agreed with the plea but made it clear that there was no end to the case. The Pima County Attorney’s Office could still prosecute Loughner in state court, which could lead to multiple death penalties.