Giffords faces Ariz. shooter for 1st time in court

Associated Press Modified: November 9, 2012 at 7:16 am •  Published: November 9, 2012
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Susan Hileman, who was shot three times while trying to save her 9-year-old neighbor, shook as she spoke.

"We've been told about your demons, about the illness that skewed your thinking," she said. "Your parents, your schools, your community, they all failed you. It's all true. It's not enough."

"You pointed a weapon and shot me three times," she added.

Before the attack, officials at Pima Community College had suspended Loughner over safety concerns after his classroom disruptions. They told him that if he wanted to return, he would have to get a mental health clearance. Loughner dropped out.

The court-appointed psychologist who treated him 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.

Legal experts had predicted that the only viable defense for Loughner was insanity, but his attorneys never mounted it.

Given Loughner's planning for the attack, the fact that he had researched Giffords and famous assassins prior to the shooting, purchased a gun, a high-capacity pistol magazine and ear plugs, then laid in wait for the congresswoman, Judge Burns noted such a defense "would not have washed."

Rep. Ron Barber, a former Giffords staffer who won election to her seat when she stepped down, also stared down Loughner from the podium, at times almost scolding the confessed shooter.

"I am very angry and am sick of heart about what you have done and the hurt you have caused to all of us," said Barber, who was shot in the cheek and thigh as he stood with Giffords on the day of the rampage. "And now you must pay the price. You must pay the price for the terror, injuries and deaths you caused."

Prosecutor Wallace Kleindienst spoke for those who couldn't speak for themselves.

He told the story of 79-year-old Phyllis Schneck. She and her husband bought a winter condo in Tucson and loved the area. He died in in 2007, but she kept coming back, and while she wasn't registered to vote in Arizona, she wanted to meet the congresswoman.

"She drove to the Safeway alone, and she died alone on that concrete walkway," Kleindienst said. "Her family never got the chance to tell her they loved her one last time."

While the day was about resolution for all the victims, it was Giffords whom all eyes were upon. She and her husband sat several rows behind the prosecutors' table, across the room from Loughner.

Kelly put his arm around her. She leaned into him. He helped her to the podium as she shuffled through the courtroom.

"Mr. Loughner," Kelly said, "you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place."

Kelly then gingerly kissed his wife. He grabbed her hand, and the two walked silently back to their seats.

Kelly told NBC's "Today" show on Friday that he felt like Loughner was definitely listening to what he had to say, and "wasn't really happy at points."

"I almost felt like he and Gabby were having quite the staring contest," he said.