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DOJ Seeks Death Penalty In Buffalo Supermarket Mass Shooting

Federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty against Payton Gendron, a white supremacist who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, they said in a court filing Friday. Gendron, 20, is already serving a sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole after he pleaded guilty to state charges of murder and hate-motivated domestic terrorism in the 2022 attack, the Associated Press reports. New York does not authorize capital punishment, but the Justice Department has the option of seeking the death penalty in a separate federal hate crimes case. Gendron had promised to plead guilty in that case if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

The Justice Department has made federal death penalty cases a rarity in the Biden administration. The president opposes capital punishment. Attorney General Merrick Garland instituted a moratorium on federal executions in 2021. Although the moratorium does not prevent prosecutors from seeking death sentences, the Justice Department has done so sparingly. It successfully sought the death penalty for a antisemitic gunman who murdered 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. It also went ahead last year with an effort to obtain the death sentence for an Islamic extremist who killed eight people on a New York City bike path, though a lack of a unanimous jury meant that prosecution resulted in a life sentence. The Justice Department has declined to pursue the death penalty in other mass killings. It passed on seeking the execution of a gunman who killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Tex.


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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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