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Photos Released of Smiling Giffords in Houston Hospital

Photos of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords were posted on her Facebook page Sunday, the first portraits to be released since she was shot in the head Jan. 8.

The photos were taken May 17 at TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, where the Arizona Democrat is undergoing rehabilitation. Giffords had been in Florida the day before to see her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, lift off in the space shuttle Endeavour for a mission, and the day after, surgeons placed a plastic implant in her skull as part of her treatment.

P.K. Weis was the photographer of the two new portraits, one of Giffords alone and one with an unidentified woman. Weis worked as a photojournalist and photo editor at the Tucson Citizen for 36 years.

“Any photographer in the country would have loved the opportunity to take these pictures and I was delighted to be asked,” Weis said in a statement on Giffords’ Facebook page. “I’ve known Gabby for more than a decade and her staff asked me to do it because she wanted someone who was not a stranger — someone she would be comfortable around. The photos were taken in her room and in an outside area of the hospital.”

Giffords appeared to enjoy the portrait session, according to Weis.

“It was very inspiring to see how much she had recovered in 4 and a half months,” he said. “I was excited to see her and to see her smile. She was glad to see me, was in a good mood, smiling and laughing and seemed to enjoy the experience. I certainly did, too.”

Giffords’ political future is unclear. Her chief of staff offered a blunt assessment of the Congresswoman’s recovery last week, but Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.) painted a far rosier picture days later.

The man accused of shooting Giffords, Jared Loughner, was recently determined to be mentally unfit to stand trial. He has been sent to a federal facility in an attempt to restore his competency. He has pleaded not guilty to the 49 federal charges against him.

Six people were killed and 13 people, including Giffords, were wounded in the January shooting spree in a grocery store parking lot in Tucson.

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