RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
In Arizona, the man accused of shooting Gabrielle Giffords at a gathering of her constituents in Tucson last year will be in court today. Jared Loughner allegedly killed six people in that attack and wounded 13 others. He was declared mentally unfit to stand trial, but now that may change. As NPR's Ted Robbins reports, Loughner's lawyers are expected to offer a deal to help him avoid the death penalty.
TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: It's been more than a year since Federal Judge Larry Burns accepted the diagnosis that 23-year-old Jared Loughner was schizophrenic and couldn't aid in his own defense. The judge ordered Loughner to undergo treatment at a federal psychiatric facility in Missouri, at times against his will. Today the mental health experts treating him are expected to testify that he now understands the gravity of the charges against him and can cooperate with his lawyers.
That would mean a trial - painful for victims and potentially tricky for prosecutors. Loughner's defense has all along sought simply to avoid the death penalty, so his lawyers are asking Judge Burns to allow a deal where Loughner would admit guilt in exchange for a life sentence. That hearing will take place today - that is, if the judge first rules Loughner is mentally competent. Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.