By Sandhya Somashekhar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 24, 2011; 10:06 PM
PHOENIX - His hair is growing in, but the wide-eyed grin from Jared Lee Loughner's infamous mugshot was on display again Monday when a federal judge asked him to answer to charges that he tried to kill an Arizona congresswoman and two of her aides.
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and wire-rimmed glasses, Loughner did little but smile and stare through a 20-minute arraignment in which he didn't say a word. The court entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Loughner, 22, was arraigned in connection with the Jan. 8 attack that killed six people and injured 13.
Monday's appearance in a Phoenix courtroom dealt with three counts of attempting to kill federal employees, including Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is in a Houston rehabilitation center recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. Two aides also were hurt in the attack. Two other federal employees - a longtime U.S. district judge and another Giffords aide - were killed.
In response to questions from U.S. District Judge Larry Burns of California, who is presiding over the case, prosecutors said they will try to have all of the federal charges filed within 45 days, including the two murder charges based on forthcoming indictments. But they did not guarantee that the charges will be ready by then. The next hearing was set for March 9.
Judy Clarke, Loughner's defense attorney from California, asked the court to enter the not-guilty plea on his behalf. She offered no hint of her strategy going forward.
Asked by the judge whether she wanted to discuss her client's competency for trial, she replied, "Not at this time." Legal experts say the team may try to mount an insanity defense.
Loughner leaned back slightly in his chair and glanced only occasionally at the dozens of reporters, U.S. marshals and observers in the gallery.
In connection with the case, prosecutors turned over to the defense information they obtained from Loughner's computer, as well as discs containing about 250 interviews conducted by investigators, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace H. Kleindienst said during the proceedings.
Loughner is accused of opening fire during a constituent meet-and-greet event held by Giffords outside a Safeway supermarket in Tucson. Authorities say he walked up to the congresswoman, shot her at close range, then turned his Glock 19 semiautomatic handgun on her staff and those who had come to see her. Among those killed were three people in their 70s and a 9-year-old girl who had recently joined her school's student council.
Law enforcement officials say Loughner was tackled when he paused to reload his weapon. He was arrested at the scene and has been in federal custody since.
If convicted, Loughner - who, according to friends and acquaintances, had lost touch with reality in the months leading up to the shootings - could face the death penalty.
The indictments so far relate to federal workers who were shot while on official duty. Loughner has been indicted on charges of attempting to assassinate Giffords and attempting to murder aides Ron Barber and Pam Simon. Loughner also has been accused of killing a third aide, Gabe Zimmerman, and U.S. District Judge John M. Roll. He is expected to be indicted soon in those two deaths.
Loughner is also likely to face a raft of state charges in the shootings of the non-federal employees.
On Sunday, U.S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke filed a motion to hold all remaining hearings in Tucson. Monday's hearing and Loughner's initial court appearance took place at the federal courthouse in Phoenix. Because of the high-profile nature of the case, the trial could be moved out of state. Clarke said she does not object to the Tucson location.
Burns was appointed the trial judge because all of Roll's colleagues on the Arizona federal bench recused themselves. All of the state's public defenders also recused themselves, leading the state to appoint Clarke, who also represented Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, and Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman convicted of drowning her two young sons in 1994.
Prosecutors argued that it would be difficult for the victims and witnesses to attend hearings if the case were heard outside Tucson, which is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix.
"Crime victims have a right to notice of hearings, to be reasonably heard, and to be present during hearings, unless excluded," the prosecutors wrote. "Accordingly, there will be similar logistical issues with the scheduling of witnesses."
Giffords was moved to Houston on Friday to begin treatment at a rehabilitation center. Because she still has a buildup of fluid on her brain, she must remain in intensive care for the time being.
Giffords's family chose Houston for her rehabilitation in part because her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, lives and works there.
All the other people who were injured in the shootings have been released from the hospital.