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No-Nonsense Calif. Federal Judge Tapped for Ariz. Shooting Trial

Posted Jan 14, 2011 7:56 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in California with experience in death-penalty trials has been tapped to preside over the trial of the suspect in the Tucson, Ariz., shooting spree that left six people dead and 14 injured.

U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns of San Diego is known as a no-nonsense judge who will keep the proceedings on track, the New York Times reports. Burns has death penalty experience, as a judge and a former prosecutor, the Recorder reports.

In interviews with both publications, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said experience was a key reason he selected Burns. “We don’t have that many judges, it turns out, who have been involved in potential capital cases,” Kozinski told the Times.

There were other considerations as well. Kozinski told the Recorder he wanted a judge who was “well-respected, and had the reputation of being fair and well thought of by both sides.” He told the Times that high-profile cases call for “a fairly strong judge who will keep control of the proceedings.”

Burns was selected after all the federal judges in Arizona recused themselves because one of the victims, U.S. District Judge John Roll, was a colleague. Jared Lee Loughner is accused of killing Roll and injuring U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who remains hospitalized.

Burns presided in the murder prosecution of the leader of a Mexican drug cartel and in the bribery case against former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

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