A federal grand jury in Arizona indicted Jared Lee Loughner on 49 counts for this past January’s shooting massacre in Tuscon, in which six people were killed and thirteen wounded. When Loughner was initially indicted in Phoenix, there were only three federal charges against him, for attempted murder against Gabby Giffords and two of her aides — all of whom were considered federal officials performing federal duties when they were shot. But prosecutors tried a novel legal argument to add the 46 additional federal charges by stipulating that at the time the shootings occurred, the Safeway where Giffords met with constituents should be considered “protected federal ground, as if it happened inside Congress.”
Using that argument, prosecutors were able to get the grand jury to agree to charges of killing and wounding victims that weren’t federal employees as well as charges for attendees who weren’t injured. But the novel strategy, which wasn’t employed with the Oklahoma City bombing, for example, could lead to issues with appeals. Stephen Salzberg, a law professor at George Washington University, called the strategy overkill since all the other charges against Loughner, who already faces the death penalty, could be filed in state court. It’s possible Salzberg hasn’t seen the mug shot.