Could Feds Give Jared Loughner Death Penalty?

By Jason Beahm on January 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

By now nearly everyone has heard of the tragic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting. U.S. District Court Judge John Roll and 18 others at a campaign event in Tucson on Saturday were also shot. The alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, has officially being charged with attempted murder, murder and attempted murder of a U.S. Congress person. A question for many now is: Could either the feds or Arizona give Jared Loughner the death penalty?

The federal government has charged Jared Loughner in the shooting of a crowd at an event hosted by Gifford outside a Tucson, Arizona grocery store, CBS reports. Due to the nature of the alleged attacks, Loughner is facing both state and federal charges. Loughner allegedly planned in advance to assassinate a member of congress.

The Jared Loughner death penalty question looms, though, although he is obviously presumed innocent and will make his first court appearance today in Phoenix.

Arizona does have the death penalty and has executed a total of 22 people since 1976. Since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988, 68 federal defendants have been sentenced to death with three actually being executed.

In a strange and unfortunate twist, the actions and motivations of U.S. District Court Judge John Roll have an impact into the charges that Jared Loughner will face. According to the criminal complaint, Roll did not randomly show up at Giffords' event. According to prosecutors, Roll specifically went to the event to talk to Giffords about the issue of heavy judicial caseload, CBS reports.

If accurate, that means that as Giffords and Roll were engaged in official duties as employees of the U.S. government when they were killed, Loughner would be eligible for the death penalty under U.S. federal law. Jared Loughner could face the death penalty in state and/or federal court for the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Again, as with all criminal defendants, he is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court.

It is a terrible event that continues to develop. For now, the prognosis for Giffords looks surprisingly good, although she remains in critical condition and her medical condition is far from being in the clear.

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