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Updated Jan 12, 2024, 6:22pm EST
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Justice Department seeks death penalty for Buffalo shooter

Insights from Reason, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair.

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Merrick Garland
Greg Nash/Pool via REUTERS
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The News

The United States’ Justice Department is seeking the death penalty in a federal case against the 20-year-old White shooter who killed 10 Black people in a racially motivated attack on a Buffalo supermarket in 2022.

The “United States believes the circumstances in Counts 11-20 of the Indictment are such that, in the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified,” prosecutors said, according to court filings.

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It is the second time that Attorney General Merrick Garland has pursued the death penalty since taking office, a sharp deviation from President Joe Biden’s campaign promise to eliminate capital punishment at a federal level.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Biden may seek death penalty for Buffalo shooter for political gain

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Sources:  
Reason, CNN

Biden is “trying to execute this guy to show people he opposes racism,” wrote Billy Binion of Reason, a libertarian magazine. Despite making abolition of the death penalty a central campaign promise, his administration has sent mixed signals about their position on the issue, activists told CNN: The White House has halted federal executions as it reviews Trump-era justice policies, while also pursuing new capital punishment trials including that of the El Paso shooter in 2019 and the 2017 New York City truck attacker. The only consistency in Biden’s death penalty policy “is its inconsistency,” one law professor told CNN.

Trump ‘wants to expand death penalty and bring back firing squads’

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Sources:  
Asssociated Press, Rolling Stone

Former President Donald Trump reversed a 17-year pause on federal capital punishment to execute 13 inmates in his last months in office — at times cutting corners to get the executions done, the Associated Press reported — and may seek to go further should he win office again. Where Trump once appeared hesitant of the death penalty, asking former Attorney General Bill Barr why he supported it, according to the AP — he is now in favor of “more dramatic” execution methods as a crime deterrent, former White House officials told Rolling Stone, asking advisers about the legality of reintroducing archaic execution methods such as firing squads and the guillotine, and proposing capital punishment for drug traffickers.

Haley rebuffs far-right push calling for women who get abortions to be executed

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Sources:  
NBC, CNN, Vanity Fair

The apparent resurgence of the federal death penalty comes as a group of GOP lawmakers in South Carolina last year introduced a bill calling for abortion to be classified as murder and women who get abortions to be executed – although several later withdrew their support. State representative Jordan Pace said that the opposition and media reports had “overblown the death penalty aspect” of the proposed legislation, NBC News reported. The controversy has forced 2024 candidates to take a side on the issue, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who confirmed her view during a CNN town hall that “any woman that has an abortion shouldn’t be jailed or given the death penalty.”

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