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San Diego judge tapped for Loughner trial

San Diego judge tapped for Loughner trial
Jared Lee Loughner is shown after his arrest on January 8, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. He was arraigned on five federal charges including the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on January 10, 2011. Photo released by the Pima County Sheriff's Office on January 10, 2011. UPI/U.S. Marshalls/HO | License Photo

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- A San Diego federal judge known for handling major felony cases will preside over the trial of Tucson shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner, court officials said.

U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns was named by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after all federal judges in Arizona recused themselves because of professional and personal ties to U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, killed in Saturday's shooting spree that left five others dead and 13 wounded, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

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Burns' experience with the federal death penalty, both as a prosecutor and judge, factored into the selection, said Kozinski, who was former U.S. President Ronald Reagan's first appointed U.S. special counsel.

"I wanted a judge who (was) well-respected and had the reputation of being fair and well thought of by both sides," the California legal publication The Recorder quoted Kozinski as saying. "And I wanted to have a judge who had some experience with the federal death penalty because that's a possible situation here."

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Burns is best known for presiding over the trial of U.S. Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Calif., who pleaded guilty in 2005 to taking $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors.

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Burns also presided over murder and drug charges brought against the leader of the Tijuana, Mexico, Arellano-Felix drug cartel.

It has not been decided where the trial will be held, but a change of venue motion is expected because of the intense publicity surrounding the shootings, the Los Angeles Times said. Loughner defense attorney Judy Clarke is also based in San Diego.

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