DOJ Seeks Death Penalty for ‘Buffalo Shooter’ – Civil Rights Group Opposes Decision

By Xinhui Lin & Sarah Chayet

BUFFALO, NY – The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) announced its decision to seek the death penalty last week for white supremacist Payton Gendron, who shot and killed 10 Black people at a Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York in May 2022. 

The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) condemned the DOJ’s decision to use the death penalty, as noted in a statement made by Janai S. Nelson, president and director-counsel of the LDF.

“This horrific rampage is another in the long line of distinctly American mass shootings that combine racism and gun violence,” said Nelson, adding it “was a heinous act of white supremacist violence that had a devastating impact on the Black community in Buffalo and beyond.”

“We must act now to end the propagation of hate speech and unchecked access to militaristic weapons that are trained on our communities,” Nelson stated, emphasizing her steadfast condemnation of violent, racist acts and the urgent need to root out all forms of white supremacy. 

“We also demand that the federal government pursue an all-of-government approach to hate-motivated incidents that leads with prevention of and protection from white supremacist violence,” said Nelson.

In her statement, Nelson explains why she takes a stance against the death penalty for the Buffalo Shooter, noting, “In times rife with extreme violence…we cannot resort to capital punishment as a solution.”

Nelson said in these recurrent circumstances of violence and terror, the federal government should prioritize resolutions that “show courage, leadership, and a commitment to rooting out white supremacy…that are not merely punitive but that are effective.”

In addition to the question of the death penalty’s effectiveness, Nelson also cites a lack of evidence proving that it is a realistic deterrent to hate-motivated violence.

Nelson added, “Justice for the many Black people that were killed in this horrendous attack does not begin with pursuit of the death penalty, which is the very practice that has been used, and continues to be used, in a racially discriminatory fashion to execute Black people and harm Black communities.”

Instead of the death penalty, Nelson calls for a response from the federal government that addresses “the root causes of white supremacy and (prioritizes) investing in the health and continued recovery of communities impacted by hate-driven violence.”

About The Author

Xinhui Lin is a first-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles, pursuing a double major in Public Affairs and Sociology on a Pre-law track. Her unwavering commitment to addressing social injustices is deeply rooted in her cultural background and her personal experiences while growing up in Shanghai, China. Xinhui keenly observed the pervasive gender and racial inequalities, the subtle yet significant discrimination against minority groups, and the everyday micro-aggressions that disenfranchised individuals face. After exploring the philosophical question regarding the intricate relationship between power, morality, and justice, Xinhui kindled her interest in the intricacies of the criminal justice system – a cornerstone of society meant to epitomize principles of justice and fairness. Her commitment to understanding and improving this system is evident in her aspirations to potentially pursue a career as an attorney, with a strong desire to advocate for disadvantaged individuals.

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