WASHINGTON — Jared Lee Loughner is set to plead guilty Tuesday in the shooting attack that severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to knowledgeable sources, as mental health officials believe he is now competent to understand the charges against him in the assault, which killed six people and injured 13 at a gathering with the congresswoman’s constituents in Tucson.
At the hearing Tuesday morning in U.S. District Court in Tucson, psychiatric experts who have examined Loughner, 23, are scheduled to testify that they have concluded that despite wide swings in his mental capacity, at this time he comprehends what happened and acknowledges the gravity of the charges, according to two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the case was still unfolding.
The terms of the plea arrangement remained unclear Saturday on whether Loughner would admit guilt to all or some of the charges in return for a lengthy prison sentence rather than risk a potential death penalty verdict at trial.
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Loughner’s agreement to plead guilty, if finalized in court Tuesday, would probably end more than a year and a half of psychiatric evaluations and testing, including some periods in which he was medicated at a federal prison hospital. It also would close out complex legal disagreements between prosecutors and defense attorneys over his mental capacity.
As a reminder, six people were killed in the attack:
Christina-Taylor Green, 9, of Tucson.
Dorothy "Dot" Morris, 76, a retired secretary from Oro Valley; wife of George, who was wounded.
John Roll, 63, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Arizona, named to the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.
Phyllis Schneck, 79, homemaker from Tucson.
Dorwan Stoddard, 76, retired construction worker, died from a gunshot wound to the head; his wife Mavy was wounded.
Gabriel "Gabe" Zimmerman, 30, community outreach director for Giffords, and a member of Giffords' staff since 2006. Zimmerman was the first Congressional staffer killed in the line of duty.
In addition to the six dead, thirteen other people were wounded by gunshot in the attack, while a fourteenth person was injured, but not by gunshot. Gabrielle Giffords and two other members of her staff were among the surviving gunshot victims.