Sheriff: 'He specifically targeted the congresswoman'
Monday, January 10, 2011; 12:35 PM
TUCSON - Federal authorities filed murder charges Sunday against 22-year-old Jared Loughner, as new evidence suggested the alleged gunman in Saturday's rampage had fixated on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) while his mental health deteriorated.
Loughner appeared to have planned the shooting, according to court documents. In a safe at his parents' home, investigators found an envelope with the words "I planned ahead" and "my assassination" written on it, along with the name "Giffords.'' Loughner's signature is also believed to be on the envelope, the complaint says.
In the same safe, authorities found a 2007 letter to Loughner from Giffords, using congressional stationery to thank him for attending a "Congress on Your Corner" event in Tucson. Saturday's shooting took place at another such event, where Giffords was meeting constituents outside a supermarket.
"He specifically targeted the congresswoman. We have eyewitness testimony and documents to prove that," Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik said on CNN early Monday. "He's a very troubled individual."
Loughner will make his first appearance in an Arizona courtroom Monday at 2 p.m. Mountain time (4 p.m. in Washington).
The Arizona Federal Public Defender's Office has asked a judge to appoint Judy Clarke, the San Diego attorney who helped defend Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, to represent Loughner, court documents said. Clarke, known as a tireless campaigner against capital punishment, also convinced a South Carolina jury that Susan Smith did not deserve the death penalty for drowning her two sons in a lake in 1994.
The appointment would not become official until Monday's court hearing in Arizona. The Arizona federal public defender's office cited multiple conflicts of interest and "the gravity of the charges" in seeking Clarke's appointment, according to a motion the office filed in federal court on Monday.
Loughner is accused of shooting Giffords in the head during Saturday's public event - then firing his handgun repeatedly into the crowd around her. In all, 20 people were struck by bullets. Six of them died, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.
Giffords remains sedated and in critical condition, doctors said. After surgery on the wound - in which a single bullet traversed the left side of her skull - they said Giffords was able to follow simple commands, like holding up two fingers when asked.
"This is about as good as good can get" with a bullet injury to the brain, trauma physician Peter Rhee said.
Loughner has been charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder.