The defense lawyers for Sayfullo Saipov, the man convicted of carrying out a deadly truck attack in New York City in 2017 that left eight people dead, have claimed that the government’s pursuit of the death penalty is motivated by racism.
The defense pointed to the Biden administration’s moratorium on federal executions and the decision not to seek the death penalty in the case of a white, US-born citizen who committed a race-motivated attack on a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, in support of the argument.
ISIS-inspired truck attacker Sayfullo Saipov asks judge to strike the death penalty, saying the decision to pursue it was based on "religion and national origin, in
violation of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments."
— Aaron Katersky (@AaronKatersky) February 9, 2023
Defense attorney David Patton stated, “Given the recent decision to accept Patrick Crusius’s guilty plea to life imprisonment despite his unrepentant and premeditated hate killing of 23 Latinos at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas — Crusius being a white, U.S.-born citizen — the Court should have significant concern that a driving force behind the death notice, in this case, is Mr. Saipov’s religion and national origin, in violation of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments.”
Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan, has offered to plead guilty, waive all appeals, and accept lifetime imprisonment under strict conditions that would eliminate his third-party communications in order to avoid the death penalty.
Meanwhile, his attorneys have asked the judge to strike the death penalty or, at the very least, order federal prosecutors to reveal the evidence behind their decision to seek it.
The defense also highlighted then-President Donald Trump’s calls for Saipov’s execution and his use of the attack to rail against the diversity visa lottery system and “chain migration.” According to the defense, “Then-President Trump persistently demanded that Mr. Saipov face the death penalty based on nothing more than an intemperate assessment of his crime and his identity as an Uzbek Muslim immigrant who was a diversity visa lottery winner.”
The penalty phase of the case is scheduled to begin on Monday. There has been no immediate response from prosecutors to the defense position.
The truck attack carried out by Saipov was the deadliest terror attack in New York City since the September 11 attacks. He rented a truck from Home Depot and drove it down a bicycle and pedestrian path along the Hudson River, killing eight people and injuring another 12. A police officer shot Saipov after he crashed into a pole and a school bus.