PHOENIX – Jared Loughner, head shaved, a cut on his right temple and his hands cuffed, stared vacantly at a packed courtroom Monday and sat down. His attorney, who defended “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, whispered to him.
It was the nation’s first look at the 22-year-old loner accused of trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The three-term Democrat lay about a 100 miles away in a Tucson intensive care unit, gravely wounded after being shot through the head but able to give a thumbs-up sign that doctors found as a reason to hope.
Loughner seemed impassive and at one point stood at a lectern in his beige prison jumpsuit. A U.S. marshal stood guard nearby.
The judge asked if he understood that he could get life in prison – or the death penalty – for killing federal Judge John Roll, one of six who died in the shooting rampage at Giffords’ outdoor meeting with constituents Saturday in Tucson.
“Yes,” he said. His newly appointed lawyer, Judy Clarke, stood beside him as the judge ordered Loughner held without bail.
Throngs of reporters and television news crews lined up outside the federal courthouse, where the hearing was moved from Tucson. The entire federal bench there recused itself because Roll was the chief judge.
President Barack Obama will travel to Arizona on Wednesday to attend a memorial service for the victims, a senior administration official told The Associated Press. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the president’s trip had not been publicly announced.
Earlier in the day, the nation observed a moment of silence for the victims, from the South Lawn of the White House and the steps of the U.S. Capitol to legislatures beyond Arizona and the planet itself. At the International Space Station, Giffords’ brother-in-law, Scott, the commanding officer, spoke over the radio as flight controllers in Houston fell silent.
“As I look out the window, I see a very beautiful planet that seems very inviting and peaceful,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is not.
“These days, we are constantly reminded of the unspeakable acts of violence and damage we can inflict upon one another, not just with our actions, but also with our irresponsible words,” he said.”We’re better than this. We must do better.”
On a frigid morning outside the White House, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama stood side by side, each with their hands clasped, heads bowed and eyes closed. On the steps of the U.S. Capitol, congressional staff and other employees did the same.
At the Supreme Court, the justices paused for a moment of silence between the two cases they were hearing Monday morning.
The president called for the country to come together in prayer or reflection for those killed and those fighting to recover.
“In the coming days, we’re going to have a lot of time to reflect,” he said. “Right now the main thing we’re doing is to offer our thoughts and prayers to those who’ve been impacted, making sure we’re joining together and pulling together as a country.”
Later Monday, a moment of silence was held at the BCS national championship between Oregon and Auburn in Glendale.
In total, six died and 14 were injured or wounded outside a supermarket where Giffords set up a booth to hear the concerns of constituents. Loughner was tackled to the ground minutes after the shooting began, authorities said. He has been silent ever since.
A Mass for all the victims was scheduled Tuesday at St. Odelia’s Parish in Tucson.
Among the dead was 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was born on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Her funeral is Thursday.