Tucson gunman faces victims, including Gabby Giffords, before receiving life sentence

The man who pleaded guilty to a deadly Arizona shooting rampage that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been sentenced to life in prison.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentenced 24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner to seven life terms and 140 years on Thursday for the January 2011 attack that left six people dead and Giffords and others wounded.


Former astronaut Mark Kelly is married to Giffords, who stood by his side, and he spoke directly to Jared Loughner, saying he changed his wife's life forever but not her spirit.

"You may have put a bullet through her head but you haven't put a dent in her spirit," he told the court. Giffords and Kelly turned to face Loughner so they are eye to eye with him, though they are separated by about 20 feet.

Kelly said Loughner sought to diminish the beauty of life, but failed. He said the shooter wanted to create for 'us' a life as dark and evil as his own.

It was the first time Giffords came face-to-face with Loughner. She did not speak.

Giffords and Kelly walked slowly to the podium, the former congresswoman appearing to struggle with her steps.

Kelly spoke about the daily struggles his wife faces. He said she works harder in one minute than most do in a day.

Loughner shot Giffords and 17 others in the attack, killing six. As part of a plea agreement, he is being sentenced to life in prison.

"You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did.  But after today. After this moment. Here and now. Gabby and I are done thinking about you," he said.

After the sentencing, Giffords embraced her husband. Loughner showed little emotion. His parents were inside the court and his mom sobbed during the hearing.

Prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst says Jared Loughner was convinced he had killed Gabrielle Giffords after shooting her in the head. He only later acknowledged after months of treatment that she was alive "and he had failed."

Loughner has been diagnosed as schizophrenic.

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.

"We've been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your thinking," another victim, Susan Hileman, told Loughner. "Your parents, your schools, your community, they all failed you.”

Some victims, including Giffords, welcomed the plea deal as a way to move on. It spared victims and their families from a potentially lengthy and traumatic trial.

Christina Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist who treated Loughner, had warned that although Loughner was competent to plead guilty, he remained severely mentally ill and his condition could deteriorate under the stress of a trial.

When Loughner first arrived at a prison facility for treatment, he was convinced Giffords was dead, even though he was shown a video of the shooting. He eventually realized she was alive after he was forcibly medicated.

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 Wednesday that no decision had been made.

It's unclear where Loughner will be sent to serve his federal sentence. He could return to a prison medical facility like the one in Springfield, Mo., where he's been treated for more than a year.

Or he could end up in a prison such as the federal lockup in Florence, Colo., that houses some of the country's most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

The Associated Press contributed to this report