Phase of the death penalty trial for the killer on the bike path in New York – KGET 17

NEW YORK (AP) – A jury will begin deliberating Monday whether an Islamic extremist who killed eight people on a New York City bike path should receive the death penalty, an extremely rare punishment in a state that hasn’t had an execution in 60 years.

Sayfullo Saipov, 35, was convicted last month of the 2017 attack, in which he deliberately drove a truck at high speed down a path along the Hudson River, mowing down bicyclists in the sunny morning hours before the city’s Halloween celebration.

The same jury that found Saipov guilty will return to work, hearing additional witnesses in the penalty phase. Anything less than a unanimous vote for death will mean Saipov will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Saip’s lawyers hope to convince jurors that a life sentence is enough for the spree that killed five friends from Argentina, a Belgian woman and two Americans.

New York does not have the death penalty and has not executed anyone since 1963, but Saipov’s trial is being held in federal court, where the death penalty remains an option, although it is rarely successfully sought. The last time a person was executed for a federal crime was in New York in 1954.

President Joe Biden placed a moratorium on federal executions after taking office, and his Justice Department has so far not opened any new death penalty cases.

Saip’s lawyers argue that it is unconstitutional for prosecutors to seek his execution when the government has stopped seeking the death penalty in so many other cases, including some involving defendants who have killed multiple people.

“There is no rhyme, reason or predictability to why the government chooses to seek death in some homicide cases but not others,” they wrote in a recent court filing.

They noted that then-President Donald Trump quickly sought the death penalty, tweeting the day after the attack that Saipov “SHOULD GET THE DEATH PENALTY!” Lawyers said it was Trump’s way of advancing “his anti-immigrant agenda.”

“There is a legitimate concern that the death penalty sometimes (and impermissibly) affects the race, ethnicity, national origin, and religious beliefs of the accused,” they wrote.

Even in more deadly attacks, including the 2019 attack in El Paso, Texas, that killed 23 Walmart customers, death was not sought, attorneys noted.

The lawyers said it seemed arbitrary for the US Justice Department to “spare some defendants but single out Mr. Saipov, a Muslim immigrant, for the death penalty even though their guilt is arguably greater.”

Prosecutors are expected to focus on Saip’s victims. In the first phase of his trial, jurors heard from survivors who described the horror and grief of losing loved ones and the pain they continue to suffer from their injuries. More of that kind of emotional testimony was expected as prosecutors presented their case over the next week.

Saipov, meanwhile, has been unrepentant since he was shot after getting out of his truck and brandishing a pellet and paintball gun at a police officer. Later, in a hospital bed, the Uzbek national smiled as he asked for the Islamic State flag that inspired his rampage to be placed on his room wall, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors plan to introduce evidence aimed at showing jurors that if Saipov remains alive, he would still be able to communicate with sympathizers.

They said in a pretrial document that a Federal Bureau of Prisons official was willing to testify that last year Saipov asked a guard to give a bag of candy to another inmate who is under strict rules to prevent communication with others. In the bag, prosecutors said, was a note for another inmate that he would soon be with his fellow religious zealots.

Saip’s lawyers said even before the trial that he would be willing to plead guilty and agree to life in prison if death was not sought.

Any death sentence handed down by a jury would likely be subject to years of appeals.

The last federal death penalty case in New York involved a man who killed two police officers in 2003. Federal juries in Brooklyn have twice imposed the death penalty, first in 2007 and again in 2013, but each time the sentence was ultimately overturned on appeal.

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