Victim ‘thrilled’ by possible Loughner plea
PHOENIX (AP) — Mavy Stoddard, who lost her husband in the massacre in Arizona last year that severely wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, plans to be in a federal courtroom this week to see if her prayers will be answered by a guilty plea from the man accused of the crime.
Stoddard, who has recovered from three gunshot wounds in a leg, said Sunday she’s “just thrilled” by news reports of a possible plea agreement that could send Jared Lee Loughner to prison for the rest of his life.
“I don’t really want the death penalty. I would love to see him either put in a mental institution or life in prison with no parole. Either one of them. If he can get some help, that’s what he needs. And maybe he will find the Lord,” Stoddard said in a telephone interview from her home in Tucson, Ariz.
A hearing in the federal case against Loughner is scheduled for Tuesday in Tucson, and a court-appointed psychiatrist is to testify that Loughner is competent to enter a plea, according to a person familiar with the case who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Loughner is expected to enter a guilty plea if the judge allows that to happen at the hearing, according to the person who spoke Saturday about upcoming court proceedings in the case.
Loughner had pleaded not guilty to 49 federal charges stemming from the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting outside a Tucson supermarket where Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet with constituents. Six people died and 13 were wounded in the attack.
Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office and the Pima County attorney’s office, which has said it could pursue state prosecution of Loughner, have declined to comment on the case and the possibility of a guilty plea.
Stoddard’s 75-year-old husband, Dorwan, died from a gunshot in the head. They were heading to breakfast and had stopped to greet Giffords. When the shootings started, he dove to the ground and covered his wife.
Stoddard said she had “hoped and prayed” that Loughner would plead guilty, sparing victims and their families the potential of a lengthy court proceedings if he was found competent to stand trial.
“I won’t believe it until I hear it,” said Stoddard, 77.
She’s recovering from an illness but intends to be in court to find out more about the plea agreement.
“I have never missed a hearing except one time that I was out of town. I feel like I owe that to Dory,” she said.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns has ruled previously that Loughner isn’t psychologically fit to stand trial, but that he could be made ready for trial after treatment. Experts have concluded that Loughner suffers from schizophrenia. Loughner has been held in Missouri at a federal medical center for prisoners.
“I could have been shot up a whole lot more. This man took my life because Dory was my life,” Stoddard said of Loughner.
BARRY MASSEY and PAUL DAVENPORT
Massey reported from Santa Fe, N.M.; Pete Yost contributed from Washington.
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