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Accused Arizona gunman pleads not guilty to attempted murder

Accused Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner [JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty on Monday to three federal charges in the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website]. Loughner is charged with attempting to assassinate a member of Congress [18 USC § 351(c)] and two counts of attempting to murder a federal employee [18 USC §§ 1113-1114] in connection with the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) [official website] and two of her aids, Ronald Barber and Pamela Simon. Judge Larry Burns of San Diego entered the not-guilty plea [Reuters report] on Loughner's behalf at the request of Judy Clarke, Loughner's attorney. Additionally, on Sunday prosecutors filed a motion to shift future proceedings against Loughner to Tucson, Arizona. Clarke did not object to moving the proceedings. Burns set March 9 as the next court date in the case.

A federal grand jury indicted Loughner [JURIST report] last week. Earlier, a California federal judge was appointed [JURIST report] to try the case after all federal judges in Arizona recused themselves due to objectivity concerns arising from the death John Roll [WSJ profile], Chief Judge of the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website]. The previous day, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed [press release, PDF; JURIST report] emergency legislation [SB1101 materials; text] making it a crime to picket or protest a funeral after Reverend Fred Phelps's Westboro Baptist Church [official website; WARNING: readers may find material on this website offensive] announced plans to picket the funeral of Christina Green, a 9-year-old girl killed in the shooting. The church later backed off its plans [Arizona Republic report] and did not hold a protest. Prosecutors charged Loughner [criminal complaint, PDF; JURIST report] with murder and attempted murder earlier this month. President Barack Obama has directed that the investigation into the shooting be conducted [press releases] by the FBI [official website] under the coordination of Director Robert Mueller [official profile]. Officials arrested Loughner on January 8 and continue to search for a possible accomplice [press release].

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