A federal judge implored prosecutors Thursday to quickly decide whether or not they will seek the death penalty for the avowed white supremacist who allegedly shot and killed 10 black people at a Buffalo supermarket last month.
Magistrate Judge Kenneth Schroeder made the plea during a brief hearing in US District Court where Payton Gendron, 18, was appointed a public defender after saying he only had $16 in his bank account.
Gendron, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, shackles and a black mask, kept his head down as Schroeder read out the charges against him, and only spoke when answering routine questions from the judge to determine his eligibility for a taxpayer-funded lawyer.
The accused shooter told Schroeder he hadn’t been employed for a year and has no assets — beyond two shares of Disney stock and the chump change in his bank account.
Schroeder urged prosecutors to come to a decision quickly on the death penalty, noting the “substantial” cost of defending such cases, which typically require expert testimony from psychiatrists and medical examiners.
“This case has now been around for a month. I would hope the Department of Justice would undertake steps that would reasonably bring about” a decision on the matter, Schroeder said, according to ABC News.
Federal prosecutor Joseph Tripi said they can’t make a decision on the death penalty until an indictment against Gendron is returned and even then, it’ll be Attorney General Merrick Garland’s “sole decision.”
Garland, who on Wednesday met with relatives of the victims, has not yet ruled out the death penalty.
On May 14, Gendron allegedly drove more than 200 miles from his home in Conklin, New York to unleash a hate-fueled mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Supermarket, located in a predominately black section of Buffalo.
The college dropout allegedly detailed his plans in a sick diary where he wrote the attack was necessary to prevent black people from eliminating the white race, prosecutors said.
Immediately after the incident, which also left three wounded, Gendron was charged in state court on domestic extremism charges that carry a life sentence without the eligibility for parole.
He’s now facing a slew of federal hate crime charges as well, which makes him eligible for the death penalty.
He has pleaded not guilty in state court. His attorney in the case declined comment.
With Post wires