PHOENIX (Reuters) – Jared Loughner, the man accused of killing six people and wounding then-U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, is set to plead guilty in a Tucson court on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.
The paper, quoting “knowledgeable sources” that it did not name, said psychiatric experts who have examined Loughner were scheduled to testify in Tuesday’s mental competency hearing that he is competent to stand trial and understands the 49 charges against him.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report, and an email to a team of four attorneys representing Loughner was not immediately returned. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Arizona could not be immediately reached for comment.
Giffords was holding one of her regular “Congress On Your Corner” events at a Tucson supermarket in January 2011 when she was shot in the head by a gunman who killed six other people, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.
Loughner is charged with 49 criminal offenses, including first-degree murder over the shooting rampage, which wounded thirteen people.
If U.S. District Judge Larry Burns were to determine at Tuesday’s hearing that he is fit for trial, Loughner – who is being forcibly medicated to treat his psychosis – could face the death penalty if found guilty.
The Los Angeles Times said it was unclear on the details of the plea arrangement, or whether Loughner would plead guilty to all or just some of the charges in exchange for prison time rather than risk being sentenced to death at trial.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat seen as a rising star in the U.S. Congress, was shot through the head at close range. She resigned her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in January to focus on her recovery.
Tuesday’s hearing was to be Loughner’s fourth to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Burns ordered the hearing in June at the request of prosecutors and defense attorneys who wanted a status report after more than a year of treatment and legal wrangling over his mental competency.
The college dropout was determined unfit for trial in May 2011 after experts said he suffered from schizophrenia, disordered thinking and delusions.
Loughner has been held at a U.S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he is forcibly medicated against his will to treat psychosis and make him fit for trial.
(Reporting by Tim Gaynor and Karen Brooks; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Anthony Boadle)
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