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Buffalo Mass Shooter Plans Guilty Plea to 25 State Charges

The defendant in last May's racist mass murder in a Buffalo grocery store is expected to plead guilty to all 25 state charges against him in a court appearance on Monday, the Buffalo News reports. Payton Gendron, now 19, likely faces a life-without-parole sentence in the murders of 10 Black people and for wounding three others in a racially motivated shooting spree. A state grand jury indicted Gendron on 10 counts of first-degree murder; 10 counts of second-degree murder as a hate crime; first-degree domestic act of terrorism motivated by hate; three counts of second-degree attempted murder as a hate crime; and one count of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon. A conviction on the domestic terrorism charge would carry an automatic sentence of life without parole.

The plea is likely aimed at avoiding the federal death penalty, attorneys familiar with the case said, although the Justice Department has not said whether it plans to seek the death penalty on the federal hate crime charges he still faces. Garnell Whitfield, whose mother, Ruth Whitfield, was the oldest person killed, said Thursday that the bigger battle for families is to fight the racist system that spawned the massacre and has created injustice for Black people since the country was founded. “We know he’s guilty. This is just a skirmish. Whether he lives or dies is not the important thing. It is the system we are fighting,” Whitfield said. John Elmore, an attorney for two victims' families, said he was made aware of plans for the guilty plea about three weeks ago by Gendron’s attorneys. “As a lawyer with death penalty experience, I can tell you that Gendron’s lawyers are just trying to save his life. The evidence against him is overwhelming,” Elmore said. Elmore said it is his belief that Gendron’s federal public defenders are going to tell a U.S. Justice Department panel “he has accepted responsibility in state court and so that should be a mitigating circumstance” in attempting to persuade panel members not to recommend the death penalty.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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