Jury urged to sentence to death man who killed 8 on New York bike path

NEW YORK, Feb 14 (Reuters) – A federal prosecutor urged a New York jury to sentence Sayfullo Saipov to death as the penalty phase of his trial began on Monday, saying his execution would be the only just punishment after he killed eight people in his 2017 attack on a Manhattan bike path.

It marked the first time jurors have been asked to vote for the federal death penalty since U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in January 2021 after promising voters he would abolish the punishment.

Defense lawyers for the Uzbek immigrant called the death penalty barbaric, and urged the jurors to vote instead for life in prison for Saipov, who mowed down people with a rental truck on Oct. 31, 2017.

The death penalty is something New Yorkers are rarely asked to consider; the state’s death penalty was found unconstitutional in 2004, and federal capital cases are infrequent.

Prosecutors said Saipov deserved to be executed because he killed eight people and attempted to kill 18 more in a carefully planned attack inspired by the militant group Islamic State, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization.

They also say killing Saipov is warranted because he has shown no remorse, and because he still posed a threat even in prison.

“He’s proud of what he’s done,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Houle said to jurors in the government’s opening statement in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The trial’s penalty phase is due to last several weeks, with the government calling multiple survivors and victims’ relatives to testify about the harm Saipov has caused them.

Saipov’s victims included tourists from Argentina and Belgium, both countries that have abolished the death penalty.

The same jurors found Saipov guilty last month of all 28 charges he faced, including murder and attempted murder in order to become a member of Islamic State. Saipov, who admitted to the attack without remorse, had offered as his defense only that he had intended to die a martyr that day, not to join Islamic State as charged.

Saipov’s public defenders emphasized that the jury’s vote for death must be unanimous, and that if even one juror disagrees then Saipov will instead be sent to a maximum-security prison in Colorado for a life sentence without the possibility of release.

His defense team showed the jurors pictures of Saipov as a child with his family in his native Uzbekistan, telling them some of his relatives were traveling to New York to say they condemned his crimes but still loved him.

The jurors will also hear from an employee of the Colorado prison where Saipov would spend a life sentence. The official will describe how Saipov would be confined 23 hours a day to a small cell with a concrete bed, concrete stool, a metal wash basin and a “window that looks out on nothing.”

Prosecutors said Saipov had threatened to slit the throats of the guards at the New York prison where he is currently held.

“It’s true, he’s not a model prisoner,” David Stern, a lawyer for Saipov, conceded to jurors, saying Saipov had “blabbered” about chopping off guards’ heads when he was annoyed at them. “It’s talk and nothing more.”

“They will say that death begets death,” Stern said of the prosecutors. “We’ll say the cycle of death has to stop somewhere. We will not be like him. We will show a civilized sense of justice.”

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings

NATO allies weigh more arms for Ukraine as Russian forces close in on Bakhmut

Missiles hammer Ukraine as Russia eyes Bakhmut’s capture by April