A possible plea deal in the deadly shootings that wounded then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords would send Jared Lee Loughner to prison for the rest of his life, a person familiar with the case said Saturday.Why would anyone voluntarily accept a sentence to spend the rest of his life in prison? To avoid the death penalty, of course. What happens in jurisdictions that don't have the death penalty? Plea bargains with sentences of life or very long terms drop off sharply. My 2009 study found, "The average county with the death penalty disposes of 18.9% of murder cases with a plea and a long sentence, compared to 5.0% in counties without the death penalty."
A court-appointed psychiatrist will testify Tuesday that Loughner is competent to enter a plea in the shooting rampage that killed six people and injured 13, including Giffords, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
There is something to be said, from the victims' point of view, for a disposition of a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole and no appeals. That disposition is rarely possible in jurisdictions with no death penalty.
With the federal case concluded, will Arizona prosecutors go forward with their case? That remains to be seen.