USA - U.S. to Seek Death for Payton Gendron

USA President Joe Biden

13 January 2024 :

January 12, 2024 - USA. U.S. to Seek Death for Man Who Killed 10 in Racist Supermarket Massacre
The decision to seek the execution is a 1st for the Biden administration. The president ran in open opposition to the death penalty.
The Justice Department on Friday said in court papers that it would seek to execute Payton Gendron. Gendron, who was 18 at the time, killed 10 Black people in a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket in May 2022. It is the first time that President Biden’s administration has sought the death penalty in a new case.
Gendron, now 20, had already been sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on state charges last year. He had pleaded guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and a single count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate.
The federal government has charged Mr. Gendron with hate crimes and gun charges that could bring the death penalty.
Prosecutors said in the Friday filing that the circumstances of the charges were “such that, in the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified.”
The decision marks the 1st time that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has personally authorized capital punishment in a new case since he assumed office in March 2021.
Austin Sarat, a professor of law and political science at Amherst College who has long written critically about capital punishment, said Mr. Biden’s administration has shown “consistent inconsistency” in its actions regarding federal death penalty cases.
Mr. Biden is the first president to openly oppose the death penalty, Mr. Sarat said. But Mr. Garland has the final say on whether to seek capital punishment in federal prosecutions. And the Justice Department’s decisions under Mr. Garland have been “really hard to follow,” Mr. Sarat said.
Former President Donald J. Trump resumed carrying out the federal death penalty after a nearly two decade hiatus, even as the overall number of executions in the United States fell. The federal government executed 13 people in Mr. Trump’s last year in office, including three in the final days of his presidency.
Mr. Biden campaigned on ending the federal death penalty, promising to pause federal executions and urging states to follow suit when he took office in 2021. That year, the Justice Department, under Mr. Garland, imposed a moratorium on federal executions.
However, even with the pause on executions themselves, the Justice Department has taken a mixed approach on pursuing capital sentences. Early in the Biden administration, the Justice Department withdrew capital punishment requests in 7 cases.
But in the case of Sayfullo Saipov, Mr. Garland denied the defense’s request to drop the pursuit of the death penalty if the trial ended in a conviction. After the conviction of Mr. Saipov, who in 2017 drove a pickup truck down a Manhattan bicycle path, killing 8 people, a jury deadlocked on the death penalty, returning a sentence of life in prison.
In contrast, the jury deliberating the case of Robert Bowers, who murdered 11 worshipers in their Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, unanimously agreed last year on a sentence of death. Mr. Garland did not withdraw the request for the death penalty in that case.
The Justice Department has also “doggedly” fought appeals brought by people on federal death row, Mr. Sarat said. The administration’s inconsistency has left many death penalty opponents disappointed, he said.
“They had high hopes that the administration would take a definitive decision against the death penalty,” Mr. Sarat said.


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