‘God will hold him accountable’: Decision on death penalty for Buffalo mass shooter will come next year
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The man who pleaded guilty to the Buffalo mass shooting was in front of a federal judge on Friday morning answering to hate crime and gun charges.
During that hearing, the judge focused almost entirely on the possibility of the death penalty against Payton Gendron.
“I know a lot of people may not believe in God. But I do. And I know God will hold him accountable,” Kimberly Salter said.
She is the widow of Aaron Salter, the retired Buffalo Police officer who was working security inside a Buffalo-area Tops store back in May. He was one of the 10 people killed by Gendron. Three others were wound. He pleaded guilty to state murder and hate crime charges last month but he still faces almost identical federal charges.
Friday, judge asked the attorneys why so much time was spent reviewing evidence when Gendron already admitted his guilt.
The judge also asked, shouldn’t the defense spend its time convincing the U.S. attorney not to seek the death penalty? The judge said the public has a right to a speedy trial and he prodded the lawyers to start meeting over the death penalty.
Loved ones of the victims attended the hearing.
“He’s asking to be spared,” Kimberly Salter said. “Did he show mercy when all those other nine victims asked to be spared?”
There hasn’t been a federal execution in New York state since 1954. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office has tried.
Joe Damelio had a murder client facing the prospect of death. When that happens, taxpayers pay for two lawyers, office staff, and an investigation that does back to the defendant’s birth.
“They look at everything from birth records to see whether or not there was a forceps child,” he said.
Then, lawyers appeal to the U.S. Attorney General not to kill their client.
“And at some point, you have to appeal to the attorney general regarding your client’s person: his personality or her personality,” Damelio said.
Brean: “So you try to appeal to the attorney general’s humanity?”
Lawyers for Gendron and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have meetings scheduled after the holidays and are scheduled to be back in court in March.