The hearse carrying the body of John Roll arrives at a Catholic church in Tucson, Ariz., on Friday for his funeral service.
From NBC, msnbc.com and news services
TUCSON, Ariz. — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues to make progress, her doctors said Friday, as mourners gathered nearby to honor slain judge John Roll, one of the victims of the attack on Giffords and others.
Trauma surgeon Dr. Peter Rhee said the breathing tube attached to Giffords might be removed in a day or so.
“She is progressing normally without any complications or setbacks. She’s on schedule as we had hoped ... Even overnight, she’s made significant progress," he told MSNBC TV.
“She can hear us, she can respond," Rhee added. "As it gets higher up on the curve the changes are going to be less dramatic . We’ll see a lot of things in the next 2 months. Then the changes will be more subtle for the next year … and after that.”
Neurosurgeon Michael Lemole added that "we're very encouraged that she continues to make all the right moves in the right direction. We're cautious that she's making them at her own pace." Her eyes are opening more frequently and she is more responsive, he added.
AP reported that Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, posted a message on Twitter Friday thanking people for the messages of support and said "GG," as he referred to her, was "improving each day."
On Thursday, doctors said Giffords had passed a "major milestone" on her recovery and suggested the tube might be removed soon.
The Arizona congresswoman has been sitting up, dangling her legs on the edge of the hospital bed and moving her limbs in response to commands. That's after she spontaneously opened her eyes during visits with her colleagues Wednesday night. She is able to lift both of her legs on command and is yawning and starting to rub her eyes, doctors said Thursday.
Mourning a judge
Meanwhile, the federal judge killed in the Arizona shooting rampage was remembered Friday not just for his work from the bench, but for who he was in private: a man devoted to family, faith and fairness.
U.S. District Judge John Roll had stopped by a supermarket meet-and-greet for Giffords on Saturday when he was killed, along with five others. Authorities say the shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, was targeting the lawmaker, who was wounded along with 12 others.
Roll's funeral Friday came a day after the youngest victim, Christina Taylor Green, was laid to rest and amid tight security. Four big coach buses brought dozens of judges who knew Roll over the years.
During the funeral, Roll's older brother, Ed, recalled how the family had moved to Arizona from Pittsburgh because their mother was in poor health. She eventually died when Roll was 15, said Carol Bahill, 61, who attended the ceremony.
Ed Roll told mourners Roll changed his middle name from Paul to his Irish mother's maiden name, McCarthy, "to keep that part of the family alive," Bahill recalled.
"It made it very personal," she said. "You do feel like you knew something about him personally."
Roll's three sons were among the pallbearers, and family members and two federal judges gave readings, according to a program for the funeral. Dignitaries including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as well as Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl attended.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle was to bring a handwritten message from former President George H.W. Bush, who appointed Roll to the bench in 1991, said Adam Goldberg, a spokesman for the fire department and the event.
Most of the nation had never heard of Green before the tragedy Saturday, but Roll, 63, had attracted death threats and became a lightning rod in the state's immigration debate after his ruling in a controversial border-crossing case two years ago.
Roll's death leaves a huge hole in the federal judiciary in Arizona, not only because of the workload but because he had a reputation as a fair-minded and hardworking jurist, said Paul Carter, an assistant state attorney general.
"Although I really knew him as a judge, what came through here today and what I hoped would be my legacy as well, is that he was a good father, a good family man, and just a fair guy," Carter said.
Roll, 63, who had attended daily Mass, was just coming from a service when he stopped by the local Safeway to see Giffords, by some accounts to thank her for her support in addressing the issue of a federal judge and court shortage in Arizona.
Roll's Saturday was full of mundane errands, but he was no stranger to death threats and controversy.
Two years ago, Roll presided over the case of 16 illegal immigrants who had sued border rancher Roger Barnett, saying he threatened them at gunpoint, kicked them and harassed them with dogs. Barnett argued that the plaintiffs couldn't sue him because they were in the U.S. illegally, but Roll upheld the civil rights claim and allowed a jury to hear the case.
The panel eventually awarded the illegal immigrants just $73,000 — much less than the millions sought — but the case was a flash point in a state that struggles to curb crossings at its border.
Roll received death threats and was under around-the-clock protection while hearing the case.
"It was unnerving and invasive ... by its nature it has to be," Roll told the Arizona Republic in a mid-2009 interview. He said he followed the advice of the Marshals Service to not press charges against four men identified as threatening him.
Roll also had taken a leading position in pressing for more courts and judges to deal with the dramatic increase in federal cases caused by illegal immigration.
A week before his death, he declared a judicial emergency in southern Arizona as the number of federal felony cases more than doubled, from 1,564 to 3,289, the Los Angeles Times reported. He asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency declaration extending the time to bring felony defendants into court from 70 days to 180 days, the paper reported.
Roll was an Arizona Court of Appeals and state trial court judge from 1987 to 1991. He worked as a city, county and federal prosecutor from 1973 until his appointment to the bench. He also worked for two years as a bailiff in the Pima County courts in the early 1970s.
A Pennsylvania native, he earned undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Arizona and an advanced law degree from the University of Virginia. He was an avid golfer and was heavily involved in his church, St. Thomas the Apostle.
Roll is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons, and five grandchildren.
Roll walked his two basset hounds around the neighborhood every morning, and seemed inseparable from his wife, said George Kriss, 70, who came to the service Friday but didn't get in.
"They were always together, walking the dogs, when the grandkids were with them," Kriss said.