Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for a man accused of fatally shooting nearly two dozen people in a racist attack at a West Texas Walmart in 2019 (article available here).
The U.S. Department of Justice disclosed the decision not to pursue capital punishment against Patrick Crusius in a one-sentence notice filed Tuesday with the federal court in El Paso.
Crusius, 24, is accused of targeting Mexicans during the Aug. 3 massacre that killed 23 people and left dozens wounded. The Dallas-area native is charged with federal hate crimes and firearms violations, as well as capital murder in state court. He has pleaded not guilty.
Crusius still could face the death penalty if convicted in state court.
The prosecutors’ decision could be a defining moment for the Justice Department, which has sent mixed signals on policies regarding the federal death penalty. President Joe Biden is the first president to openly oppose the death penalty and his election raised the hopes of abolition advocates, who have since been frustrated by a lack of clarity on how the administration might end federal executions or whether that’s the objective.
Federal prosecutors are still pursuing the death penalty in the case against Sayfullo Saipov, who is accused of using a truck in 2017 to mow down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path in New York City. Saipov’s federal capital trial began last week. The decision to seek death in Saipov’s case came under President Donald Trump, who during his last six months in office oversaw a historic spree of 13 federal executions.