By Debbie Emery – Radar Reporter
Suspected killer Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the shooting rampage at a political rally that left six people dead and 13 othera injured, including then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Loughner’s plea means that he will be spared the death penalty and instead will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The move came soon after a judge concluded that forcibly medicating the 23-year-old college dropout to treat his schizophrenia made him competent to understand the gravity of the charges and assist in his defense, reported CBSNews.com.
As RadarOnline.com previously reported, the suspect pleaded “not guilty” to a 49 count indictment last year – including murder and the attempted assassination of a member of Congress – after opening fire on January 8, 2011, at a constituents meeting that Rep. Giffords was holding in Tucson, Arizona.
The wife of astronaut Mark Kelly – who was shot in the head and suffered serious damage to the left side of her brain that controls speech and communication – called the pain and loss suffered that day “incalculable,” but is relieved there will not be a lengthy death penalty trial.
“Avoiding a trial will allow us — and we hope the whole Southern Arizona community — to continue with our recovery,” Giffords and Kelly said in a joint statement.
Schizophrenia sufferer Loughner has been heavily medicated for more than a year while held at federal prison, and at times has been confused as to whether Gabby had died in the shooting or survived.
“‘If this is true, Jared is a failure,'” federal psychologist, Dr. Christina Pietz said Loughner told her.
During his doctor’s testimony, the shooter sat calmly with his arms crossed over his stomach, lurched slightly forward and looking straight at Pietz.
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