Tucson: Gabrielle Giffords limped to the front of the courtroom and stared silently as she came face-to-face for the first time with the man who tried to kill her.
Giffords stared at Jared Lee Loughner as he was sentenced on Thursday to seven life terms for the January 2011 slayings that left six people dead, and for the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Giffords herself was left partially blind, with a paralysed right arm and injuries to her brain.
The former congresswoman hadn’t been near Loughner since the deadly rampage outside a meet-and-greet at a supermarket.
Giffords’ astronaut husband told Loughner what Giffords couldn’t, before he was sentenced to seven life terms for the January 2011 slayings and attempted assassination of a member of Congress.
“ Loughner, you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven’t put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place,” Mark Kelly said.
Giffords, wearing a black brace around her torso, looked closely at the 24-year-old Loughner for several minutes without uttering a word.
Loughner returned their gaze, but showed no emotion. His mother sobbed nearby.
Loughner was then ordered to serve the seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years in federal prison for the shootings that also wounded 13, including Giffords.
His guilty plea enables him to avoid a federal death sentence. No state charges will be filed.
The sentencing marked the end of a nearly two-year-long saga in which Loughner, who has schizophrenia, was forcibly medicated at a Missouri prison medical facility so he can be competent to understand the charges against him. US District Judge Larry Burns recommended on Thursday that he remain there indefinitely.
Some victims, including Giffords, welcomed the plea 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 Loughner up for life.