Even though the prosecution is looking hard at the death penalty for Jared Lee Loughner in the Tucson shootings, he could still die an old man behind bars, reports the LA Times. Loughner faces charges in federal court, where death penalties are rarely given out—only three out of 182 federal death penalty cases since 1988 have been carried out. Arizona is also readying charges against him, but the state isn't overly fond of the death penalty, with 24 executions carried out over the past 35 years.
Even to seek the death penalty, prosecutors must maneuver a series of obstacles—including filing a background report and a report on the victim's family members' view of the death penalty—and send their findings to the Justice Department. Infamous Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was one of the three feds executed, but that was largely because he dropped all appeals. Most high-profile killers, including the Unabomber, the Olympics bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, get life in prison.