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NY Republicans reintroduce the death penalty, as state AG says 'sweet justice will rain down' in probe of supermarket shootings

Letitia James points, in front of a wall logo of the State Attorney General.
Richard Drew
New York Attorney General Letitia James is promising justice in the probe of Buffalo's supermarket shootings.

When the alleged murderer in Saturday's mass shooting on Buffalo's East Side goes to trial, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said it will be in a federal court under federal law. As she admits, that could mean a death penalty sentence, although New York hasn't had a death penalty for decades.

On Monday, Republican leaders in the State Legislature filed a bill to reinstate the death penalty, last reinstated by new Gov. George Pataki after he used the issue, among others, to defeat Gov. Mario Cuomo, who was openly opposed to the ultimate penalty.

Washington, D.C. has a death penalty, used in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh of Lockport. However, President Joe Biden said he's against it, while U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland recently watched as the Supreme Court reinstated a death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing associate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Speaking to a protest, James said her office is probing the killings in Buffalo.

"How he got a gun? How he fell through the cracks, right? All of these issues and more," James said. "And so, I will work with law enforcement. But I can tell you right now, that the full weight of the United States of America will treat this as a hate crime, domestic terrorism. And at the end of the day, sweet justice will rain down."

Legislation to eliminate the death penalty is stalled in Congress. Biden could commute the death sentences of those waiting on federal death row to life in prison. Meanwhile, some of those in state and federal prisons for execution often die of natural causes because the process is so endless.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.