PHOENIX — The nation got its first look on Monday at the 22-year-old loner accused of trying to assassinate Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Jared Loughner, head shaved, a cut above the right temple and his hands cuffed, scanned a packed courtroom and sat down.
His attorney, who defended Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, whispered to him.
The judge asked Loughner if he understood that he could get life in prison — or the death penalty — for killing federal Judge John Roll, one of the six who died in the shooting rampage at Giffords’ meeting with constituents on Saturday in Tucson.
“Yes,” he said, standing at a lecturn in his beige prison jumpsuit. A U.S. marshal stood guard nearby.
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.
Hours earlier, the nation observed a moment of silence for the victims of the rampage, from the South Lawn of the White House and the steps of the U.S. Capitol to legislature beyond Arizona and the International Space Station.
There, Giffords’ brother-in-law, Scott, the commanding officer, spoke over the radio. 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,” he said. “We must do better.”
On a frigid morning outside the White House, President Barack 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. Arizona’s chief federal judge, John Roll, was killed in the attack.
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.”
In total, 19 people were shot in the rampage outside a supermarket where Giffords held here meeting. Giffords was shot in the head, and remains in intensive care.
Among the six people killed were a 9-year-old girl who was born on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and was interested in public service, as well as one of Giffords’ aides.
Loughner was tackled to the ground minutes after the shooting began, authorities said. He has been silent every since.