Hate Crime Charges in Buffalo Raise Question for Garland

Attorney general has paused federal executions, so will he seek the death penalty?
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 15, 2022 12:09 PM CDT
Buffalo Shooter Charged With Federal Hate Crimes
Investigators work the scene after a mass shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, May 16, 2022, where a gunman killed 10 people, most of them Black, and wounded three others.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The white gunman who killed 10 Black people in a racist attack at a Buffalo supermarket was charged Wednesday with federal hate crimes and could face the death penalty, per the AP. The criminal complaint filed Wednesday against Payton Gendron coincided with a visit to Buffalo by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Gendron was already facing a mandatory life sentence without parole if convicted on previously filed state charges. His racist worldview and extensive preparation for the attack were laid out in documents he apparently authored and posted online before the shooting.

The case may present a quandary for Garland, who has vowed to aggressively prioritize the prosecutions of civil rights cases but also instituted a moratorium on federal executions last year after an unprecedented run of executions at the end of the Trump administration. The moratorium put in place in July 2021 halts the Bureau of Prisons from carrying out any executions. But the memo does not prohibit federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, a decision that ultimately will fall to Garland. The executions have been halted as the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures for capital punishment. President Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and his team vowed that he would take action to stop its use while in office.

(Read more Buffalo shooting stories.)

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