(AP) – Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty for a man accused of shooting and killing nearly 20 people in a 2019 racist attack at a Walmart in West Texas.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced its decision not to pursue the death penalty against Patrick Crusius in a one-sentence notice filed Tuesday in federal court in El Paso.
Crusius, now 24, is accused of targeting Mexicans in a shooting that left dozens injured and 23 dead. He has been charged with murder in state court and has pleaded not guilty.
Federal prosecutors do not explain in court filings why they do not seek the death penalty for Crusius, even though he could be executed if convicted in state court. The decision comes just weeks after former El Paso district attorney Jaime Esparza took over as federal attorney in West Texas.
Esparza said that when he was a district attorney, he would seek the death penalty in Crusius’ case. A spokesman for Esparza’s office referred the question to the Justice Department in Washington, DC, but another spokesman declined to comment. Lawyers for Cruisus did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His case is scheduled for trial in federal court in January 2024.
Federal and state lawsuits are proceeding in parallel, but it is unclear when Crusius will be tried on state charges.
District Attorney Yvonne Rosales, who was leading the state’s case, resigned in November following accusations of incompetence in El Paso involving hundreds of lawsuits and delaying the case against Crusius. Greg Abbott appointed a new district attorney last month to “restore confidence” in the local criminal justice system.
Boston-based AP writer Alana Durkin Richter contributed to this report.
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