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Tucson shooter sentenced to life after Giffords, other victims confront him

The gunman who killed six people and tried to assassinated U.S. congresswoman Gabby Giffords showed no emotion in court as a judge sentenced him to life in prison. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The man who pleaded guilty to a deadly Arizona shooting rampage that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has been sentenced to life in prison.

Ross D. Franklin / AP

Former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, left, and her husband, Mark Kelly, leave U.S. District Court in Tucson, Ariz., on Thursday, Nov. 8, after the sentencing of Jared Loughner.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns sentenced 24-year-old Jared Lee Loughner on Thursday for the January 2011 attack that left six people dead and Giffords and others wounded.

Loughner pleaded guilty to federal charges under an agreement that guarantees he will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. He received seven life terms, one for each death and one for the attempt on Giffords' life, plus 140 years.

Giffords hugged her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, after the sentencing was handed down.

Loughner showed little response to the sentence.

The hearing marked the first time victims -- including Giffords -- could confront Loughner in court. Her husband spoke on her behalf, saying Loughner changed his wife's life forever but couldn't dent her spirit.

At the courtroom podium, Giffords held Kelly’s hand silently and stared directly at Loughner as Kelly addressed him in a stern tone, NBC News reported.

"That bright and chilly morning you killed six innocent people," Kelly said. "Gabby would trade her own life to save any of those you savagely murdered that day."

Kelly then named the six victims and talked a little about each. Afterward he said:

"Then there's Gabby... Now she struggles to deliver each and every sentence ...  Gabby struggles to walk. Her right arm is paralyzed. She is partially blind."

"Mr. Loughner, by making death and producing tragedy ... you tried to extinguish life ... But know this and remember always -- you failed. You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and commitment ... " ...

"You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did. But after today. After this moment. Here and now. Gabby and I are done thinking about you.

Kelly also lambasted elected officials for their positions on gun control, naming Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as one of many "feckless" state elected leaders who "look at gun violence,not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore."

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson declined comment on the criticism leveled against the governor. 

"This is a day of justice and peace," he said.

Read Mark Kelly's complete testimony as prepared for delivery 

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.

Clarke put her hand on Loughner's arm after Kelly spoke, a contrast to last year when the defendant spat on his lawyer from his jail cell, NBC News reported.

Other survivors also addressed Loughner.

"You forgot to shoot yourself," Mavanell Stoddard, whose husband died shielding her from bullets, told Loughner, according to a reporter from The Arizona Republic.

Suzi Hileman, who was shot three times while trying to save her 9-year-old neighbor, told Loughner she would think of him as dead. "You turned a civics lesson into a nightmare."

The 24-year-old Loughner pleaded guilty three months ago to 19 federal charges under a plea agreement.

Both sides reached the deal after a judge declared that Loughner was able to understand the charges against him. After the shooting, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent forcible psychotropic drug treatments.

Some victims, including Giffords, welcomed the deal as a way to move on. It spared victims and their families from having to go through a potentially lengthy and traumatic trial and locks up the defendant for life.

Christina Pietz, the court-appointed psychologist who treated Loughner, 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.

When Loughner first arrived at a Missouri prison facility for treatment, he was convinced Giffords was dead, even though he was shown a video of the shooting. He eventually realized she was alive after he was forcibly medicated.

'Home for good': Giffords, husband move back to Tucson

It's unknown whether Pima County prosecutors, who have discretion on whether to seek the death penalty against Loughner, will file state charges against him. Stephanie Coronado, a spokeswoman for Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, said Wednesday that no decision had been made.

It's also unclear where Loughner will be sent to serve his federal sentence. He could return to a prison medical facility like the one in Springfield, Mo., where he's been treated for more than a year. Or he could end up in a prison such as the federal lockup in Florence, Colo., that houses some of the country's most notorious criminals, including Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski.

The exact placement will depend on the nature of his mental illness and its treatment.

Saul Loeb / EPA

A look at the Arizona lawmaker's rise to prominence — from high school to Capitol Hill.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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