Jared Loughner pleads guilty to Arizona shooting spree

Jared Lee Loghner Undated Photo

Handout/Getty Images

In this handout provided by the Pima County Sheriff's Forensic Unit, Jared Lee Loughner is seen. Loughner pled guilty to the shooting spree at a political event outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, targeting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

Jared Loughner, the man accused of going on a shooting spree during a town-hall meeting held by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz. pleaded guilty, the AP reports. The shooting spree left six people dead and 13 others wounded.

The AP adds:

"Loughner's plea Tuesday allows him to avoid the death penalty in a mass shooting that gained worldwide attention in January 2011 because his intended target was the congresswoman. Among the dead were Arizona's chief federal judge and a Giffords' aide.

"Federal Judge Larry A. Burns had found that Loughner was mentally unfit to stand trial. He ruled on Tuesday that months of forcibly medicating him to treat his schizophrenia made him competent to understand the gravity of the charges against him and assist in his own defense."

"My personal observations of him leave no questions in my mind that Loughner knows what's going on today," Burns said, according to The Arizona Republic.

The Republic reports that Dr. Christina Pietz, Loughner's forensic psychologist, testified during today's hearing. The paper reports:

"When Pietz diagnosed Loughner with schizophrenia after the shootings in 2011, he was described as being 'disappointed, upset.' He told her he wished he took depression medication, Pietz said. Pietz said she believed medication had subsequently helped Loughner because he began making comments about feeling badly about what he had done. He also showed some understanding of his actions, saying he wanted to be executed and crying about a child's death in the event.

"Pietz also said Loughner expressed shock that Giffords survived, telling her he was disappointed that he failed to kill the lawmaker. He said of himself, 'Jared is a failure.'"

The AP reports that Loughner listened "calmly and without expression" during the hearing.

Loughner is expected to be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Update at 3:59 p.m. Looked Stoic:

Steve Shadley, of NPR's member station KUAZ, tells our Newscast unit that Loughner was "stoic" throughout the hearing. "He was slurring his words slightly," Shadley said and he spoke very carefully and slowly.

Update at 3:40 p.m. ET. Giffords Statement:

Earlier today with news of an expected plea deal, Giffords, along with her husband Mark Kelly put a statement saying they were satisfied with a deal.

"The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable," they said. "Avoiding a trial will allow us – and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community – to continue with our recovery."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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