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AZ Shooter Likely to Face Death Penalty for Death of Federal Judge


U.S. District Judge John M. Roll was murdered Saturday morning when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly carried out a shooting rampage in the parking lot of an Arizona Safeway.  Roll, like dozens of other supporters, had gathered to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was hosting an outdoor town-hall style event when shots rang out around 10 a.m.  In all six people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded.

While the news of Giffords' injuries have largely overshadowed Roll's death, the judge's murder will likely bring the harshest punishment if Loughner is convicted.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said Saturday evening that authorities believe Giffords was the intended target of the shooter.  But Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said the killer will likely face the death penalty, even if he did not intentionally target Roll or others who perished in the incident.  Fox News reports:

Napolitano said it would be a federal crime of capital murder eligible for the death sentence if the killer's motive was to prevent Roll from carrying out his judicial role.

"If on the other hand he was just killed because he happened to get in the way, then it's not a federal crime, then Arizona law would take place. He still may be exposed to the death penalty but it would be under Arizona jurisdiction and not federal."

Napolitano said a federal prosecution is likely to occur first.

"The federal government almost always takes precedence when there is a joint jurisdiction," he said, explaining that there is joint jurisdiction in the investigation because two of the targets -- Giffords and Roll -- were federal officers. Homicide is typically a state crime.

Judge Roll was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.  He was known for his "middle of the road" approach to judging and Napolitano described him as a "methodical, hard-working, well-respected, well-liked conservative jurist whose death is a shock to all of us in the legal community."

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts also conveyed his condolences over the news of Roll's death.  "We in the judiciary have suffered the terrible loss of one of our own," Roberts said in a public statement Saturday. "Chief Judge John Roll was a wise jurist who selflessly served Arizona and the nation with great distinction, as attorney and judge, for more than 35 years."

"I express my deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his children, as well as the other victims and their families," Roberts said. "Chief Judge Roll's death is a somber reminder of the importance of the rule of law and the sacrifices of those who work to secure it."

According to a statement issued by the U.S. District Court in Arizona, Roll was a "devoted husband, father of three, grandfather of five, and friend to all who knew him."

"He was a warm, compassionate judge and inspirational leader in what is one of the busiest districts in the country. His death will leave a significant void in the District of Arizona and the entire federal judiciary, and we are all deeply saddened," the court said.

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