Jared Loughner is finally competent to stand trial after being held for more than a year. He is scheduled to plead guilty to the Tucson shooting that killed six people and injured 13 including former Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
The trial was originally delayed when psychiatric evaluations determined that Loughner could not understand the charges against him. In the following months Loughner was forcibly medicated to treat his mental illness and hopefully prepare him to stand trial.
Psychiatrists say he's now ready but it's unclear if there will be a trial.
Loughner is planning to plead guilty at a hearing on Tuesday, reports Los Angeles Times.
If that happens, there will be no trial and the court will move directly to sentencing. In exchange for the plea, Loughner will avoid a potential death sentence.
Instead, he could face a long prison sentence for the November 2010 shooting.
A plea deal is a negotiation between the prosecution and defense. The defendant agrees to plead guilty to avoid a trial or to end the trial process and the prosecution generally agrees to lessen the potential sentence in some way.
The deal creates a contract between the parties. If one side breaks the agreement, the whole deal is void and the issue will then generally go to trial.
Even if Loughner currently plans to plead guilty, nothing is certain until Tuesday. Defendants have a right to change their plea up until it is entered before a court. But if the plea is withdrawn prosecutors may then seek the death penalty.
If Jared Loughner does plead guilty it could lead to a quicker resolution in this case. For victims of the Tucson shooting and their loved ones, Tuesday's hearing could finally bring some peace.