Jared Loughner, the man suspected of killing six people and wounding 13 others in a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this month, pleaded not guilty to three charges of attempted murder this afternoon at a court hearing in Phoenix. Loughner, 22, was indicted in federal court last week in the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two of her aides, Pam Simon and Ron Barber.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has said it will seek Loughner's indictment on federal murder charges in the deaths of U.S. District Judge John Roll and Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman. In addition, Loughner will most likely be indicted on state charges for the remaining victims.
Just the attempt on Giffords’s life could be enough to earn Loughner a life sentence, if convicted.
Still in question is where and when the trial will be held.
Prosecutors on Sunday asked the judge currently presiding over the case, Larry Burns, to move it from Phoenix to Tucson.
The case was moved to Phoenix because Roll was based in Tucson. In light of this, federal judges throughout Arizona have recused themselves from the court proceedings. Burns, a San Diego-based judge, has been assigned the case.
Some observers expect the trial to be held out of state, or at least in Phoenix, to put some geographical distance between the hearings and the event (as was the case when the criminal trial of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was held in Denver).
But prosecutors say that moving the trial away from Tucson would be a disservice to the victims and their family members who are expected to testify. All 19 victims were from Tucson and Oro Valley, Ariz.
Giffords has made remarkable progress since being shot in the head on January 8. She was transferred from University Medical Center in Tucson, where she was initially treated, to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston for rehabilitation. She is being kept in the intensive-care unit at the rehab hospital, however, because of a buildup of fluid in her brain.
Still, her doctors say they continue to be impressed with her recovery.
"She surprised us. She did not need as much assistance as we had anticipated,” Dr. Gerard Francisco said. “She’s activating her muscles even more than what I had anticipated. At one point, her leg was dangling on the bed, and we asked her to bring her leg up; after a couple of seconds, she brought the left leg up without any further delay."