TUCSON — Shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner pleaded not guilty Wednesday to 49 charges that he attempted to murder Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), injured 12 people and killed six others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.
In Loughner’s first appearance in a Tucson courtroom, U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns of San Diego ordered a hearing for May 25 to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial in the Jan. 8 rampage.
Loughner appeared beside his defense attorney, Judy Clarke, who asked the court to enter a plea of not guilty. Wearing shackles and a khaki prison jumpsuit, Loughner smiled, stared and sometimes grinned widely. His once-shaved head is now covered with dark hair and sideburns. He spoke only when asked if his name is Jared Loughner. “Yes, it is,” he replied.
Most of the hour-long hearing, held in the federal courthouse where slain Chief Judge John M. Roll had presided, centered on questions about Loughner’s ability to understand the court proceedings. Federal prosecutors had asked that Loughner be ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether he is mentally competent to stand trial.