And so it began with a series of bangs and ends with a whimper. Jared Lee Loughner, having been pronounced fit to stand trial, pled guilty to 19 charges of murder and attempted murder in connection with his rampage in Tuscon. The final plea agreement, via Huffington Post:
Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including attempted assassination of a member of Congress, murder and attempted murder of federal employees, and causing death and injury at a federally provided activity. As part of the agreement, the federal government dropped 30 other counts.
Washington Post had a little more detail on his affect, and the reactions of the victims:
Wearing khakis, Loughner sat quietly throughout the hearing and smiled at one point when a psychologist testifying about his competence remarked that he had bonded with one of the federal prison guards.
After the hearing, Loughner’s parents cried and embraced. The victims mostly just watched without expression.
“He’s a different person in his appearance and his affect than the first time I laid eyes on him,” said Judge Larry A. Burns, who then accepted the plea agreement and added that he found it to be in the best interest of everyone involved.
The outcome was welcomed by some victims, including Giffords herself, as a way to move on.
“The pain and loss caused by the events of Jan. 8, 2011, are incalculable,” Giffords said in a joint statement with her husband, Mark Kelly. “Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery.”
Ron Barber, a former Giffords staffer who was wounded in the attack and later won election to her seat after she stepped down, said he hoped the plea will help the victims and their families “move forward and continue our healing process.”
“I truly believe that justice was done today,” he said after the hearing. “It is important to me that this individual never again is in a position in which he can cause harm to anyone else.”
Susan Hileman, who accompanied slain 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green to the gathering outside a supermarket and was wounded in the attack, said nothing would return her life to what it was before the shooting.
“This is so sad —a 23-year-old who’s going to spend the rest of his life in a box. I feel empty. What I want, I can’t have,” she said, adding that she was relieved the case ended. Still, “it’s like a Band-Aid that keeps getting ripped off.”
Experts had concluded that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia, and officials at a federal prison have forcibly medicated him with psychotropic drugs for more than a year.
My brain understands that he was mentally ill. But emotionally, I'm frustrated by the fact that he was able to snap, get his hands on guns, and shoot people up, just like James Holmes did, who had a freaking arsenal at his disposal despite his obvious slipping grip on reality.
And we're already not talking about Wade Page. Why not? A white supremacist hater known to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he was behaving erratically and irresponsibly ahead of last weekend's rampage. Yes, he's dead. There is that. But so are six other people who would be alive if he hadn't been able to put his hands on guns and walk into a temple and start shooting people up.
So when, exactly, do we get to start talking about gun control and mental health services in this country? Because as far as I can see, it's way out of control right now.