Justice Department must decide if it will seek death penalty for Buffalo shooter, says judge

The judge says the accused qualifies for a public defense, and for the sake of the American taxpayer wants to know if DOJ is seeking the death penalty.

Updated: June 17, 2022 - 8:20am

A federal judge is telling the Justice Department to decide quickly whether it will seek the death penalty for the 18-year-old man accused in the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that led to the deaths of 10 black people.

Peyton Gendron is facing 26 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses in a criminal complaint from the department. A grand jury has not yet returned an indictment, nor has the accused entered a plea on the charges.

Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, determined at an initial hearing that Gendron qualifies to be represented by a federal public defender. 

The judge pointed out that because the case is death-penalty eligible, taxpayers will pay a steeper fee for Gendron's legal defense. 

"I also have an obligation to the taxpayers of this country to conserve and preserve as much as is reasonably possible their assets," he said.

Schroeder also pointed out that in previous cases he is aware of, the government has spent enormous amounts of money, only for the DOJ to opt against seeking the death penalty.

"I would hope the Department of Justice would undertake steps that would reasonably bring about a quick decision," he said.

Last July, Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a moratorium on all federal executions as a review of the department's death penalty protocols is carried out. Earlier this week, however, Garland would not say whether the department will seek the death penalty in the Gendron case.

Authorities say Gendron streamed his May 14 attack in real time on the live-streaming service Twitch and posted a white-supremacist rant, which said he had been inspired by past racially motivated mass killings, prior to the shooting spree.