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New indictment filed against accused Arizona shooter

Federal prosecutors on Friday filed a 49-count indictment [text, PDF] against Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect in the recent Tucson, Arizona shooting. The new indictment carries more severe charges than the original indictment [text, PDF; JURIST report] filed in January, accounting for all victims of the attack and carrying more serious penalties. The previous indictment received criticism [NYT report] because some people felt that it ignored many of the victims, focusing only on the attempted murder of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AR) [official website]. The new charges also include the murder of participants of a federal activity [18 USC § 245(b)(1)(B) text]. If the court convicts Loughner on that charge, it would be expanding the definition of a "federal activity" over past interpretations to include activities like the "Congress on your Corner" event Giffords was hosting, a possible weakness in the prosecution's case.

Prosecutors first filed charges against Loughner [JURIST report] in January. Chief Judge John Roll of the US District Court for the District of Arizona [official website] and five other people were killed in the shooting, plus another 14 wounded, including Giffords. Before serving in the Arizona District Court, Roll was a state judge and an assistant US attorney. Roll was named to the District Court in 1991 by President George HW Bush and became chief judge in 2006. Giffords received harsh criticism in Arizona for her vote for the health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive] and was among those members of Congress who reported threats or vandalism in 2010. Giffords also was an outspoken critic of Arizona's controversial immigration law [SB 1070 text, PDF; JURIST news archive]. Ultimately, however, a clear motive into the shootings has yet to be identified.

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