The following is an excerpt from Spencer S. Hsu | May 10, 2016 | Thewashingtonpost.com |
The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will not seek the death penalty against Ahmed Abu Khattala, 54, a U.S.-designated terrorist whom prosecutors accuse of leading the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
The announcement, contained in a notice to the federal trial court in Washington, clears the way for a major terrorism trial in the nation’s capital, the first in the United States since 2015, barring a plea agreement by Abu Khattala.
The decision ended a lengthy review after President Obama aired concerns in October that while he supported capital punishment in theory, he found it “deeply troubling” in practice.
[Obama calls death penalty ‘deeply troubling]
The move marked somewhat of a shift for the Justice Department, one year after federal prosecutors last May secured a death sentence in a capital terrorism case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.
The department in November approved its first new capital prosecution under Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch — who called the death penalty an “effective punishment” before her Senate confirmation in April 2015 — against Noe Aranda-Soto, an illegal immigrant accused of human trafficking and murder in Texas.
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