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Loughner appears in court; Obama plans trip to Arizona on Wednesday

By David Nakamura and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 1:08 AM

PHOENIX - Jared Lee Loughner, appearing in court for the first time since he allegedly killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in a shooting spree in Tucson on Saturday, calmly answered questions from a judge Monday and heard the charges against him before being led off in custody without bail.

Loughner, 22, entered the packed courtroom for his arraignment wearing tan inmate clothing and handcuffs amid heavy security. More than a dozen federal marshals were on hand.

Loughner, who made his initial court appearance with a shaved head and a cut on his right temple, seemed nervous initially but answered the judge's questions clearly during the 17-minute hearing.

Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson listed potential sentences in the case, including the death sentence for the murders of two federal employees, and asked Loughner if he understood. Loughner leaned into a microphone and answered, "Yes."

Anderson said all federal judges in the Tucson district have recused themselves, apparently on grounds that one of the dead was a federal judge. Officials said a federal judge from outside Arizona would be brought in to handle the case, including a preliminary hearing set for Jan. 24.

President Obama will visit Tucson on Wednesday to attend a memorial service for those killed, a senior administration official said Monday. Details are still being worked out, but it is likely he will deliver public remarks, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no one has been authorized to announce the trip.

Obama led Americans in observing a moment of silence for victims of the Tucson shooting.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stood silently on the South Lawn of the White House at 11 a.m. Eastern time with more than 200 White House staffers. A chime rang three times, and those assembled bowed their heads for one minute.

A similar vigil was held at the Capitol, where lawmakers from both parties gathered to mourn those killed and express their wishes for Giffords's recovery.

On the international space station, Giffords's brother-in-law, astronaut Scott Kelly, led NASA in a moment of silence as part of the national observance for the victims of the shooting. Kelly's identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, also an astronaut, is married to Giffords.

"As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful," Scott Kelly said by radio from the space station. "Unfortunately, it is not."

He added: "These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words. ... We're better than this. We must do better."

Doctors treating Giffords (D-Ariz.) said Monday that she continues to be responsive and has not experienced additional swelling of the brain from a gunshot wound. But she is "not out of the woods yet," her chief surgeon said at the Tucson hospital where she is being treated.

Michael Lemole, chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center, told reporters that Giffords's condition remains essentially unchanged since doctors removed part of her skull to relieve swelling in the brain following the attack Saturday outside a Tucson supermarket.

"At this stage in the game, no change is good, and we have no change," Lemole said in a news briefing at the hospital. "There is no progression of the swelling." He cautioned, "We're not out of the woods yet." But he said doctors are "slightly more optimistic" with each passing day that Giffords's brain does not show an increase in swelling.

In addition to U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, 63, five other people including a Giffords aide and a 9-year-old girl were killed in the shooting.

Doctors said eight patients remain hospitalized from the shooting, when Loughner allegedly opened fire on Giffords and a group of aides and constituents as she was greeting people during a "Congress on Your Corner" event.

Two of the patients remain in intensive care, although only one is in critical condition, said Peter Rhee, chief of emergency medicine at the hospital. He said five are in serious condition and two in good condition. Rhee did not specify which patient is in critical condition, but his responses to reporters' questions indicated that it was Giffords.

Amid mounting controversy over whether the country's inflamed political climate played any role in the shooting, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin weighed in Monday, saying she hates violence and denouncing politicians who "capitalize" on the tragedy.

In an e-mail to conservative radio and television commentator Glenn Beck, Palin said: "I hate violence. I hate war. Our children will not have peace if politicos just capitalize on this to succeed in portraying anyone as inciting terror and violence. Thanks for all you do to send the message of truth and love and God as the answer."

In an appearance on MSNBC last year, Giffords criticized a map on Palin's Web site that showed Giffords's district targeted in crosshairs. "When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," the congresswoman said.

The map has since been taken down. Palin aide Rebecca Mansour defended the midterm election campaign target map, asserting that the crosshairs represented "surveyor's symbols" rather than gunsights.

At the White House, Obama said Monday afternoon that he was focusing on "making sure that we're joining together and pulling together as a country" following the tragedy. He said that as president and as a father, he was "spending a lot of time" thinking about the families of the victims and reaching out to them. Obama made the comments to reporters before a meeting with visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Obama said that while the grieving continues and the criminal investigation proceeds, it was important to note "the extraordinary courage that was shown during the course of these events: a 20-year-old college student who ran into the line of fire to rescue his boss, a wounded woman who helped secure the ammunition that might have caused even more damage, the citizens who wrestled down the gunman. Part of what I think that speaks to is the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence."

Loughner, the alleged shooter, was tackled and apprehended at the scene. He has been charged with murder and attempted murder in the case.

In Arizona, the state's Federal Public Defender's Office asked a judge to appoint Judy Clarke, the San Diego lawyer who helped defend Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, to represent Loughner. 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.

Loughner was asked at the hearing whether he accepted Clarke as his attorney, and he replied that he did.

In seeking Clarke's appointment, the Arizona Federal Public Defender's Office cited multiple conflicts of interest and "the gravity of the charges," according to a motion the office filed in federal court Monday.

In an interview early Monday on CNN, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik called Loughner "a very troubled individual." Dupnik said: "He specifically targeted the congresswoman. We have eyewitness testimony and documents to prove that."

A friend of Loughner's, Bryce Tierney, told Mother Jones magazine that Loughner had held a years-long grudge against Giffords since he attended a campaign event - possibly in 2007 - and did not get an answer to a question he asked her. Afterward, Loughner repeatedly called Giffords a "fake," Tierney said.

According to Tierney, Loughner's question was, "What is government if words have no meaning?"

"He said, 'Can you believe it, they wouldn't answer my question,' and I told him, 'Dude, no one's going to answer that,' " Tierney recalled, according to Mother Jones. "Ever since that, he thought she was fake; he had something against her."

In an interview with the online magazine Slate, one of Loughner's professors at a community college he attended described him as "someone whose brains were scrambled." Kent Slinker, an adjunct philosophy professor at Pima Community College, taught Loughner in Introduction to Logic during the spring semester of 2010. Slinker told Slate, "His thoughts were unrelated to anything in our world."

A military official said Loughner was rejected by the Army when he tried to enlist in December 2008 because he failed a drug test, the Associated Press reported. The official did not know what type of drug was detected, AP said. The Army has confirmed that Loughner tried to enlist but has not revealed officially why he was turned down.

Despite mounting alarm among friends, classmates and teachers about Loughner's bizarre and disturbing behavior, local mental health authorities in Pima County said that no one reported any such concerns to them.

"To the best of our knowledge, he was never and is currently not enrolled in our system," said Neal Cash, president of the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, the organization that provides mental health services to Tucson and Pima County for the state. Anyone diagnosed with a serious mental illness would be in their system and eligible for services, he said. Despite severe cutbacks in the state mental health budget as a result of the foreclosure crisis and recession, Cash said that no one diagnosed as seriously mentally ill has been turned down for services.

While other states require a finding that someone is an imminent danger to himself or others before he can be involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation and treatment, Arizona permits this step when the person is "persistently or acutely" ill. State law defines that condition to include persons who appear to be mentally ill but may not know it.

"Our crisis line is manned 24/7," Cash said. "Anyone concerned about his behavior could have called at any time. I have no information to indicate that anyone ever did."

At University Medical Center, Giffords's doctors said the 40-year-old congresswoman continues to follow simple commands. But they declined to go into specifics about what she is able to do or which parts of her body she is able to move.

Lemole said doctors cannot yet assess Giffords's vision. But he said a source of optimism was that the trajectory of the bullet that passed through Giffords's head from back to front was relatively high in the brain.

"That's a positive thing," he said. "The higher the trajectory, the better the hope is that [her vision] will not be affected."

Lemole said "swelling typically breaks around the third day" following a traumatic injury and that doctors can be "much more optimistic and can breathe a collective sigh of relief" after the third or fourth day. Rhee said Monday is considered "post-op day two," and that the third-day milestone will come Tuesday.

Doctors plan to hold another news conference Wednesday to update the public on the condition of the shooting victims. If there are any changes in their condition, the hospital could hold the briefing Tuesday.

In addition to the federal charges that Loughner already faces, Arizona authorities are likely to file state charges against him, officials said Monday.

Capt. Chris Nanos of the Pima County Sheriff's Department said deputies would recommend to the county attorney that Loughner be charged with at least four counts of murder and additional counts of attempted murder or aggravated assault. The murder charges would cover the four victims who were not federal employees.

"Without a doubt, we will be pursuing more charges,'' Nanos said. "We have four homicide victims. We hope to have these charges issued pretty quickly.''

Federal and state authorities often file different sets of charges in mass shooting incidents and generally coordinate to determine where a case will proceed first.

The federal murder counts filed so far cover Roll and Giffords staffer Gabriel Zimmerman. Nanos said their cases would likely remain in federal court.

In a speech before the Arizona legislature Monday, Gov. Jan Brewer (R) hailed the "acts of extraordinary Arizonans who responded with professionalism and saved lives" during and after the shooting.

She cited Daniel Hernandez, 20, a University of Arizona student and Giffords intern who she said "showed no fear in the face of gunfire." Brewer said his quick action in attending to the badly wounded Giffords likely saved her life. Hernandez received a standing ovation from the lawmakers.

"We have not been brought down," Brewer said in what was originally intended to be a "state of the state" address. "We will never be brought down. . . . Our meetings on sunny days will not end."

Branigin reported from Washington. Staff writers Jerry Markon, Rachel Weiner, Brigid Schulte and Emi Kolawole contributed to this report.

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