Convicted Tucson gunman Jared Loughner has been sentenced to seven consecutive life terms plus 140 years in prison for killing six people and wounding 13 others, including former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a rampage last year.
Loughner, a 24-year-old college dropout with a history of psychiatric disorders, was handed the sentence on Thursday following a plea deal with prosecutors in August that spared him the death penalty.
US District Judge Larry Burns said the life sentences he imposed, one for each of the six people who lost their lives and a seventh for the attempted assassination of Giffords, represented the individuality of the victims.
“He will never have the opportunity to pick up a gun and do this again,” Burns said.
Giffords, who resigned from Congress in January to focus on her recovery, was present in court but did not speak.
She suffered a head wound that left her with speech difficulties, a paralysed right arm, diminished sight and a limp.
Addressing the court, Gifford’s husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, told Loughner he had failed in his attempt to “extinguish the beauty of life”.
“Although you were mentally ill, you were responsible,” he added.
Kelly also used the occasion to take a political swipe at Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a staunch gun-rights advocate, criticising her for speaking out against proposed restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones Loughner used, in the aftermath of the shooting.
Loughner, asked at the outset of the hearing by Burns if he had chosen to waive his right to make a statement, answered in a low voice, “That’s true”.
He was otherwise silent as he sat next to his lawyer, Judy Clarke, gazing expressionless at the survivors who spoke in court during the proceedings. He displayed no visible sign of emotion when he was sentenced.
Loughner pleaded guilty in August in federal court to 19 charges, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the shootings outside a Tucson area supermarket.
He admitted going to a “Congress On Your Corner” event on January 8, 2011, armed with a loaded Glock 19 pistol and 60 additional rounds of ammunition with plans to kill Giffords.
Loughner shot her through the head at close range. Six people were killed, including US District Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
Loughner also admitted shooting the others with the intent to kill.
Court-appointed experts said Loughner suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.
He was determined unfit to stand trial in May 2011 after he disrupted court proceedings and was dragged out of the courtroom.
Loughner later was ruled mentally competent to stand trial after being treated for psychosis at a US Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. He then agreed to plead guilty.