Arizona Shooting

San Diego Federal Judge Tapped for Loughner Case

San Diego U.S. District Judge Larry Burns will preside over the case against the man accused of killing a federal judge in the Arizona massacre that left a congresswoman clinging for her life.

Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski made the selection today after all of Arizona's federal judges recused.

Jared Loughner has been charged in federal court with the Jan. 9 shooting deaths of John Roll, the chief judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, and another federal employee who were among the six killed. More than a dozen other people, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were wounded.

Burns' experience with the federal death penalty — both as a prosecutor and judge — factored into Burns' selection, Kozinski said today.

"I wanted a judge who [was] well-respected, and had the reputation of being fair and well thought of by both sides," Kozinski said, "and I wanted to have a judge who had some experience with the federal death penalty because that's a possible situation here."

As a practical matter, Kozinski said, he also considered proximity to Arizona, though a change of venue isn't out of the question.

Burns is a 2003 Bush appointee who was a career prosecutor before ascending to the federal bench. He was an assistant U.S. attorney for California's Southern District from 1985 to 1997 and before that was a deputy district attorney in San Diego. He became a magistrate before his promotion to an Article III spot.

A couple of notable matters he's recently presided over include the bribery case against former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham and charges against the head of a drug cartel.

Loughner's appointed attorneys, Judy Clarke and Mark Fleming, are also from the San Diego area.

(Published by The Recorder - January 12, 2011)

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