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NY bike path attacker likely to be spared death penalty

Sayfullo Saipov, who killed eight people on a bike path in New York City six years ago, is likely to spend the rest of his life in jail without parole.

March 14, 2023
By Luc Cohen
14 March 2023

The man convicted of killing eight people in an attack on a Manhattan bike path in 2017 appears on track to be spared the death penalty after a jury told the judge overseeing the case it has been unable to reach a unanimous decision.

A unanimous decision is required to impose the death penalty, while a deadlock means Sayfullo Saipov will be sentenced to life in prison without parole. He would spend the sentence at Colorado’s Supermax facility, the most secure US federal prison.

After reading a note from Saipov’s jury aloud in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, US District Judge Vernon Broderick declined a request from prosecutors to poll individual jurors about whether more deliberations would be helpful.

Saipov, a 35-year-old Uzbek national, was convicted in January by a federal jury of committing murder with a goal of joining Islamic State, or ISIS, a group the United States has designated a terrorist organisation. 

The same jury has been reconvened to consider Saipov’s punishment.

Saipov’s case is the first federal death penalty trial since President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021 after pledging to abolish capital punishment during his campaign.

During the penalty phase of the trial, jurors heard from survivors of the attack who testified about their ongoing suffering, and jail officers who described Saipov’s outbursts and threats since his arrest.

“The defendant is still committed to jihad and ISIS and violence,” prosecutor Amanda Houle said in her closing argument on March 7.

Saipov’s defence lawyer, David Patton, said in his closing argument the death penalty was “not necessary to do justice”. He said Saipov would spend 22 or 23 hours a day alone in a cell with a concrete bed if sentenced to life in prison. 

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