Texas

Feds Won’t Seek Death Penalty for El Paso Walmart Shooter

Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing nearly two dozen people in a racist attack on a Walmart in West Texas in 2019.

The US Department of Justice announced the decision not to impose the death penalty on Patrick Crusius in a one-sentence notice filed Tuesday in federal court in El Paso.

24-year-old Crusius is accused of attacking the Mexicans. during the August 3 massacre which killed 23 people and injured dozens. Dallas native charged with federal hate crimes and gun violations, and murder in state court. He pleaded not guilty.

Federal prosecutors did not explain in their court the reason for their decision, although Crusius could still face the death penalty if found guilty in state court.

The prosecutor’s decision could be a defining moment for the Justice Department, which has sent mixed signals about the federal death penalty policy that President Joe Biden vowed to end during his presidential campaign. Biden is the first president to openly oppose the death penalty, and his election revived the hopes of abolitionists who have since been frustrated by the lack of clarity about how the administration could end federal executions and whether that is the goal.

Decision comes in a few weeks Jaime Esparza, former district attorney of El Paso took over as U.S. Attorney for West Texas. Esparza said when he was district attorney that he would seek the death penalty in the Crusius case. A spokesman for Esparza’s office directed questions to the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., where another spokesman declined to comment.

Crusius turned himself in to police after the attack, saying: “I’m a shooter” and that he was persecuting the Mexicans, according to an arrest warrant. Prosecutors said he published screed online shortly before the shooting, which said it was “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

Lawyers for Cruises did not immediately respond to requests for comment. His case is scheduled for federal court hearing in January 2024.

While the federal and state cases have developed in parallel, it is unclear when Crusius could stand trial on state charges.

The district attorney who handled the state case, Yvonne Rosales, resigned in November due to allegations of incompetence associated with hundreds of cases in El Paso and the slowdown of the case against Crusius. Texas Governor Greg Abbott last month new district attorney appointed “restore confidence” in the local criminal justice system.

Federal prosecutors are still seeking a death sentence in case against Saifullo Saipov, who is accused of using a truck in 2017 to hit pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path in New York. Saipov’s trial in the federal capital began last week.

The decision to seek the death penalty in the Saipov case came under President Donald Trump, who oversaw a historic 13 federal executions in the last six months of his tenure. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a moratorium on federal executions in 2021 but allowed U.S. prosecutors to continue seeking the death penalty for Saipov while the department reviews Trump-era death penalty procedures.

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Tarm reported from Chicago. Associated Press contributor Alanna Durkin Reacher of Boston contributed.

Copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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