In quiet appearance, Loughner faces charges
Monday, January 10, 2011; 8:48 PM
PHOENIX - An oversized khaki jumpsuit draped on his slight frame, his hands cuffed and legs chained, Jared Lee Loughner shuffled into Courtroom 302 at the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. District Courthouse here at just after 2 p.m. Monday. His head was shaved, his left eye socket was swollen and a small circular bruise was visible on his forehead.
After the dramatic way Loughner, 22, entered the public consciousness - allegedly spraying bullets into a crowd outside a Tucson grocery store Saturday, killing six and wounding 14 - his much-anticipated initial court appearance was far quieter.
Neither his family, nor those of the victims, was in the room. Judy Clarke, the high-profile public defender flown in from San Diego, guided Loughner to the defense table, patting him on the back. She pointed out the Arizona state seal above the judge's table.
"Are you okay?" she asked him. He nodded, a vacant, faraway look in his eyes.
Seventeen minutes later, it was over. He had been formally charged with five federal offenses, including two capital murder counts that could lead to the death penalty, as well as the attempted murder of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson, who called Loughner "a threat to the community," ordered him remanded to federal custody after Clarke waived a bail hearing, and Loughner was led out of the room by a U.S. marshal.
"Good luck, Mr. Loughner," Anderson said.
Loughner is scheduled to be back in court Jan. 24, but by then much might have changed. Clarke objected to any Arizona federal judge overseeing the case and to the state's U.S. attorney's office leading the prosecution, citing conflict of interest because of its presumed relationship with John Roll, the federal judge from Tucson who was among those killed in the shooting.
"We do have great concern about proceeding further than today with Arizona judges," she told Anderson.
Anderson said all Tucson district judges have already recused themselves and that he, too, would end his involvement after Monday's hearing. It was not immediately clear how the U.S. attorney's office will respond to Clarke's concerns. The prosecution's lead lawyer, Wallace Kleindienst, whose father Richard was attorney general under President Richard Nixon, did not address the matter Monday.
Legal experts said it is not uncommon for Ninth Circuit federal judges from outside the state to come to Arizona to preside over cases. They acknowleged that Roll was a well-respected peer whose death has rocked the tightly knit Arizona legal community.
"The loss of Judge Roll is huge," said Alan P. Bayham, Jr., president of the Arizona bar association. "Every lawyer knew of him. He was a State Court judge before. He was a federal judge and a prosecutor before that. The loss is just tremendous."
The Loughner that the public has come to know, an angry young man whose rambling YouTube videos about mind control and dreams made associates nervous and fearful of him, was hardly visible in court.
Loughner betrayed almost no emotion; he said little, answering "yes" to several procedural questions and reciting his name when asked to identify himself.
At one point, Anderson held up Loughner's financial disclosure form, which declared he had no resources to hire an attorney, and said he could not make out Loughner's signature. "I know how hard it is to write with handcuffs," Anderson noted dryly. In a courtroom full of a few dozen reporters, Clarke successfully moved to have the document placed under court seal.
Clarke is a well-respected public defender who led the defense of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and assisted in the case of confessed al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui. Though she is not admitted to the Arizona bar, Clark, who is a member of the California bar, said she will file the appropriate paperwork this week. Anderson formally appointed her and a San Diego colleague, Mark Fleming, to the defense team.
Clarke wore a white knit sweater and seemed to act almost motherly toward her client, rubbing his back and patting his shoulder several times. When Anderson adjourned the hearing, she patted him one more time, then turned in the opposite direction as the U.S. marshal took her place and pointed the way for Loughner to his new life in federal prison.