Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords along with eighteen others--six fatally--entered a guilty plea today after he was declared competent. The plea deal, however, means he will escape the death penalty and avoid a lengthy, drawn-out trial. Instead, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Loughner has been declared a schizophrenic and has been hospitalized since the shooting at an Arizona political gathering in January of 2011. His psychologist, Christina Pietz, testified today that after being on medication for the condition, he shows every sign of being fully competent and aware of what he's done.
Judge Larry Burns asked Loughner if he was sure he knew his rights, saying, "Is that what you want to do? Have you made that choice to give up those rights and plead guilty?" To which Loughner replied, "Yes."
Giffords, who only barely escaped with her life and has traveled a long and painful road to recovery from being shot in the head, issued a statement with her husband, Mark Kelly, about today's events.
"The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable," the statement says. "Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery."