Life sentence for Giffords attack

AAP with ninemsn staff
7:55am November 9, 2012
Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. (AAP)
Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. (AAP)

A man whose 2011 shooting rampage killed six people and wounded 13 others, including US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has been ordered to serve seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years in a federal jail.

Jared Lee Loughner, 24, pleaded guilty under an agreement that guarantees he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.

He avoids a federal death sentence, although state prosecutors in Arizona could still decide to try him.

Ms Giffords, partially blind, her right arm paralysed and with a limp, came face to face with Loughner at the sentencing on Thursday, standing beside her husband as he spoke of her struggles to recover from being shot through the head.

"Her life has been forever changed. Plans she had for our family and her career have been immeasurably altered," said Ms Giffords' husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

"Every day is a continuous struggle to do those things she once was so good at."

Convicted murderer Jared Lee Loughner. (AAP)
Convicted murderer Jared Lee Loughner. (AAP)

Mr Kelly told Loughner that he had "failed" to put a dent in Ms Giffords' spirit or commitment.

"You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did," he said.

"But after today, after this moment here and now, Gabby and I are done thinking about you."

One by one, survivors of the attack at a Giffords political event in Tucson, Arizona, approached the courtroom podium to address Loughner, each turning toward him where he sat stoic and emotionless at a table with his lawyers.

"You took away my life, my love and my reason for living," said Mavanell Stoddard, who held her dying husband in her arms as he lay bleeding after shielding her from the spray of bullets.

"I am lonesome, hate living without him.

"You stopped our 15-year almost-perfect marriage of total happiness."

Susan Hileman was at times visibly shaking when she addressed her attacker.

"We've been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your thinking," she said.

"Your parents, your schools, your community, they all failed you.

"It's all true. It's not enough.

"You pointed a weapon and shot me three times.

"And now I walk out of this courtroom and into the rest of my life and I won't think of you again."

Loughner's parents sat nearby, his mother sobbing.

Giffords didn't speak, but stood by Kelly and kissed her husband when he was done. He grabbed her hand and they walked away, her limping.

Earlier, Loughner told Burns that he would not speak at the hearing.

Both sides reached the deal after a judge declared that Loughner was able to understand the charges against him. After the shooting, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.

It's unknown whether Pima County prosecutors, who have discretion on whether to seek the death penalty against Loughner, will file state charges against him.

Stephanie Coronado, a spokeswoman for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, said on Wednesday that no decision had been made.

© AAP 2014
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