Lawyers for Buffalo mass shooter file to dismiss federal case

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The shooter who killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket should be exempt from the death penalty because he was 18 at the time of the attack, an age when the brain is still developing and more vulnerable to negative influences. , his defense team said in a new court filing.

The science of brain development has advanced since a 2005 Supreme Court ruling that declared the execution of people under 18 unconstitutional, Payton Gendron’s lawyers wrote. They cited more recent research indicating that the brain may continue to develop into the early 20s.

“The science is (…) clear and uniform: people under the age of 21 are not yet adults and should not be punished as such,” they said in their filing Monday, opposing “the execution of individuals barely old enough to vote, unable to legally drink or rent a car, unable to serve in Congress, and still in the throes of cognitive development.

Gendron, now 20, is serving 11 life sentences without parole after pleading guilty to murder and hate terrorism charges for the May 14, 2022 shooting at a store he said it chose for its location in a predominantly black neighborhood.

The government has said it would seek the death penalty if Gendron is convicted in another federal hate crimes case, which is expected to go to trial next year.

In a supplemental motion Tuesday, Gendron’s lawyers argued for dismissal of the federal indictment, questioning the constitutionality of the hate crimes law and whether its enactment exceeded Congress’ authority.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Buffalo had no comment, spokeswoman Barbara Burns said.

“I respect the obligation of Gendron’s defense attorneys to raise all issues to effectively represent their client,” attorney Terrence Connors, who represents the relatives of Gendron’s victims, said in an email, “but these issues, for the most part, were considered unfavorable. at Gendron’s position. Obviously, they are defending the minority point of view.

Investigators said Gendron, who is white, described his attack plans in an online journal that included step-by-step descriptions of his assault plans, a detailed account of a reconnaissance trip he carried out in Buffalo in March and cards from the store. which he drew by hand. He broadcast the assault live using a camera attached to a military helmet he wore. In addition to killing 10 customers and store employees, he injured three people by opening fire with an AR-style rifle first in the supermarket parking lot and then inside.

Gendron’s lawyers argue that the Supreme Court’s protection for people under 18 from the death penalty in the 2005 case should be extended to Gendron and others like him.

“Research shows that people in this age group are very similar to young people under the age of 18 with respect to their decision-making and behavioral abilities,” they wrote.