Judge Suspect in Buffalo Shooting Warns Feds of Cost of Seeking Death Penalty

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In the first federal court appearance of accused Buffalo mass shooter Payton Gendron, the new hate crime chargesthe judge warned prosecutors of the high cost to taxpayers of seeking the death penalty.

During Thursday’s hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. warned the government about the expense of seeking the death penalty, as he has seen in previous cases the government spend a lot of money from the taxpayers during that process only to later change their mind. So, the judge urged the government to make a clear decision as soon as possible.

“We hear you,” responded New York Assistant US Attorney Joseph M. Tripi, promising to “get the message out.” He said that the next point in the process will be to seek an indictment in the next 30 days, and United States Attorney General Merrick Garland will make the “only decision” on whether to seek the death penalty.

No plea was entered Thursday and no new court dates were immediately scheduled.

DOJ FILES FEDERAL HATE CRIME CHARGES AGAINST BUFFALO MASS SHOOTING SUSPECT PAYTON GENDRON

The hearing comes after the Justice Department filed a criminal complaint Wednesday against Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, charging him with 26 counts of hate crimes and firearms offenses, which carry the potential for the death penalty. Garland traveled to Buffalo on Wednesday and met with families of victims and survivors of the May 14 shooting at Tops Market.

Payton Gendron arrives for a hearing at the Erie County Courthouse on May 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.

Payton Gendron arrives for a hearing at the Erie County Courthouse on May 19, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.
((Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images))

The shooting killed 10 people and left three others injured. According to the criminal complaint“Gendron’s motive for the mass shooting was to prevent blacks from replacing whites and eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar attacks.”

During Thursday’s proceedings, Gendron spoke and appeared to consult with attorneys frequently. When reference was made to the death penalty several times, Gendron did not seem to react.

He seemed calm and reserved throughout the process. Among the 50 to 60 people in the gallery, a courtroom official said a couple dozen of them were family members of the victims.

A crowd gathers as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York.

A crowd gathers as police investigate after a shooting at a supermarket on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Buffalo, New York.
(AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

“I’m a Christian person, I don’t wish death on anyone,” Tamika Harper, the 62-year-old niece of victim Geraldine Talley, told The Associated Press after the hearing, “but right here I have to work with because I’d rather see dead.

“I’m angry, very, very angry,” said Harper, who wore photos of the victims on her blouse. “She hasn’t shown an ounce of remorse.”

Gendron’s family was not present at the hearing.

“It’s hard to be here. It’s hard to be in court with a terrorist.” Zeneta Everhart, whose 21-year-old son, Zaire Goodman, a Tops employee, was shot in the neck but survived, he told the AP. “Seeing the man who tried to kill my son sitting there, sharing the same space with him, it’s hard.”

Evangelist Bruce Warrick performs a baptism outside Tops grocery store on May 20, 2022 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Evangelist Bruce Warrick conducts a baptism outside Tops grocery store on May 20, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

He called being in court “part of my healing process.”

The judge reviewed the charges and asked Gendron several procedural questions to which the defendant repeatedly answered simply “yes.” Schroeder then asked him some financial questions to determine if the defendant is eligible for representation by a federal public defender. Asked how long he had been earning money from a job, Gendron replied “a year.”

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They asked him if he had bank accounts and how much money he had in them. She said she had checking and savings accounts and had “16 dollars, no car and two Disney shares.

Gendron wore an orange jumpsuit, shackles, and a black mask that covered a scruffy beard. He leaned forward slightly in his chair with his head bowed as the judge read the charges. He already faced a mandatory life sentence without parole if he was convicted of previously filed state charges, including hate-motivated domestic terrorism and murder. He has pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Goin of Fox News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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