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Suspect in shooting of Arizona congresswoman pleads not guilty

The gunman suspected of the deadly shooting in Tucson, Arizona that gravely wounded a local congresswoman has pled not guilty to three counts of attempted murder.

Court illustration of Jared Lee Loughner and lawyer

Loughner is charged with three counts of attempted murder

The man charged with attempting to murder US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in a shooting spree that killed six people has pled not guilty in his second appearance in court since the January 8 attack.

Jared Lee Loughner, 22, sat quietly with a smile on his face as his lawyer Judy Clarke entered not guilty pleas to three counts of attempted murder. He has so far only been charged with trying to kill Giffords and two of her aides who were wounded in the attack, Pam Simon and Ron Barber.

More charges are expected for the deaths in the attack, which included a nine-year-old girl and federal judge John Roll. Loughner could ultimately face the death penalty if convicted.

Some have suggested Loughner may escape serious punishment because of his mental condition, evidenced by angry, bizarre ramblings posted on the Internet before the attack. But Clarke downplayed that suspicion, telling the judge she was "not raising the issue of competency at this time."

Giffords recovering quickly

Gabrielle Giffords

Doctors say Giffords is making a remarkable recovery

Authorities have said Giffords was Loughner's prime target in the shooting. Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range, but is making a remarkable recovery, according to doctors treating her.

She has been transferred to a rehabilitation center in Houston, Texas after almost two weeks in the intensive care unit at the University Medical Center in Tucson.

Justice officials have a challenging task in ensuring a fair and impartial trial for Loughner, whose chilling mug shot was released shortly after the attack. California federal judge Larry Burns is presiding over the trial, after all judges in Arizona recused themselves because of their connection to their colleague who was killed in the attack.

There was also speculation that Clarke would seek to have the trial held outside Tucson to ensure an impartial jury, but she told the court on Monday that she had no objection to holding the trial in the same city as the attack.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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