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Suspect in Arizona Shooting Appears in Court

Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect in the attempted assassination of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, shown in U.S. Marshals handout photograph, 10 Jan 2011

The 22-year-old Arizona man accused of shooting 20 people while trying to assassinate a U.S. congresswoman has made his first court appearance to face federal charges.

Jared Loughner was in shackles Monday as he entered a Phoenix courtroom under heavy security. In the brief hearing, he told the court he understood the charges against him. He could get life in prison or the death penalty.

Loughner is alleged to have killed six people, including a federal judge, in a rampage that left Representative Gabrielle Giffords of the southwestern state of Arizona critically wounded. Giffords, who was shot in the head, was meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in the city of Tucson Saturday when the shooting took place.

The suspect is charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee.

One of the doctors treating the 40-year-old Giffords said Tuesday on NBC television that there was no change to her condition overnight. Doctors have said she has been responding to simple commands, but they warn she is not out of danger.

President Barack Obama, who led the nation in a moment of silence Monday, is to travel to Arizona Wednesday to attend a memorial service for the shooting victims.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, said House votes scheduled for this week have been postponed. Flags at the White House and other government buildings are to be flown at half-staff all week.

In several videos on the YouTube website, a person who posted under the name of the alleged shooter criticizes the government and calls for a new currency. Law enforcement officials say they are investigating the videos.

Last March, Giffords was one of at least 10 House Democrats harassed for their support of U.S. health care reform legislation. The front door of her office in Tucson was shattered in an act of vandalism.

Giffords was re-elected in November to a third term in the House of Representatives. She was first elected to Congress in 2006.