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New York bike path attacker on track to be spared death penalty after jury deadlocks

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Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek man charged with using a truck to kill eight people on a Manhattan bike path on Halloween in 2017, listens to testimony from New York City Police (NYPD) officer Ryan Nash at his federal trial in New York City, U.S., January 9, 2023 in this courtroom sketch. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg

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

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

After reading a note from Saipov’s jury aloud in federal court in Manhattan, U.S. 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” organization. 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 defense lawyer, David Patton, said in his closing argument that 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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