Jan 17, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Feds won't seek death penalty in El Paso Walmart mass shooting case

A woman leans over a makeshift memorial outside a Walmart in El Paso where a man fatally shot 23 people and wounded 22 others

A makeshift memorial for the mass shootings victims in El Paso, Texas, August 2019. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced they will not seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing 23 people and wounding 22 others at an El Paso Walmart in 2019.

The big picture: Patrick Crusius has been charged with 90 counts under federal hate crime laws. Crusius, whose federal trial is scheduled to begin in January 2024, has pleaded not guilty. He could still face the death penalty in state court.

  • Federal prosecutors faced a Tuesday deadline to say whether they would seek the death penalty.
  • Police say Crusius confessed to authorities that he was targeting Mexicans when he drove 10 hours from Allen, Texas, to El Paso to carry out the shooting on Aug. 3, 2019.
  • He posted a racist screed online shortly before the shooting, according to prosecutors.
  • His trial in state court on capital murder charges has not been set.

State of play: President Biden on the campaign trail pledged work “to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level."

  • In July 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a moratorium on federal executions while the Justice Department reviewed its death penalty policies and procedures.
  • Garland said in a memo that "serious concerns" have been raised about the use of the death penalty, "including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases."
  • No federal executions will be scheduled while the review takes place, the DOJ said.
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