Trump's death penalty tweets will likely throw a huge wrench in the NYC terror suspect's case

Donald Trump

  • President Donald Trump is under fire for repeatedly demanding the death penalty in the case of Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect accused of killing eight people in a terror attack on Tuesday.
  • Trump’s comments could complicate the case, both for federal prosecutors and Saipov’s defense team, legal experts say.
  • Terrorism cases involving the death penalty are already very rare — and it’s unclear whether prosecutors intend to seek such a sentence in Saipov’s case.

President Donald Trump in recent days has publicly called for the New York City terror suspect to receive the death penalty, a demand that could potentially affect the case’s prosecution and undermine the suspect’s right to a fair trial, legal experts say.

Police say Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbeki immigrant, killed eight and injured 12 when he plowed a rented pickup truck down a bicycle path in lower Manhattan, slamming into pedestrians and cyclists. He faces federal charges for providing material support to a terrorist group, as well as violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

Trump — who also said he was considering moving Saipov to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, before reversing his position the following day — took to Twitter multiple times on Wednesday and Thursday to encourage capital punishment.

“NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” Trump said on Twitter.

He continued Thursday morning: “Would love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system … There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”

Those comments will likely “throw a wrench in the works,” causing challenges for both Saipov’s defense team and the attorneys prosecuting him, said Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school.

“This prosecution is going to go forward because it has to, for the better interests of justice, but I do think that the potential for the way it can derail is noteworthy and very unfortunate,” Greenberg told Business Insider.

The jury pool could be tainted

Sayfullo Saipov, the suspect in the New York City truck attack is seen in this handout photo released November 1, 2017.   St. Charles County Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS Though it’s unclear whether Saipov’s case will go to trial — it’s possible he will plead guilty — the prospect for the jury pool to be tainted has raised concern.

Greenberg said that though judges are typically “very forceful” in managing jury selection under difficult circumstances, Trump’s comments will likely prompt challenges from Saipov’s defense team, who will surely question whether prospective jurors have seen the tweets and what will happen if they have.

Shortly after Trump issued his tweets on Wednesday, several prominent national security attorneys took to Twitter to weigh in, arguing that the president’s comments could slow the process and undermine Saipov’s right to a fair trial.

“Trump helped the terrorist with this tweet. Now prosecutors will have to spend time dealing with motions that the jury pool is tainted,” tweeted Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor.

“This is called potentially tainting jury pool & could impact alleged perpetrator’s ability to secure fair trial. SMH #Unpresidential,” national security lawyer Mark Zaid wrote, using an acronym for “shaking my head.”

Beyond a potentially compromised jury pool, Greenberg said it’s not a given that prosecutors would even seek the death penalty — and Trump’s comments add pressure to that decision.

Terrorism cases that involve the death penalty are rare, especially in New York. Even prosecutions of the 1998 US Embassy bombings, which left hundreds dead, did not lead to death penalty sentencing. The last convicted terrorist to be dealt a death sentence in the United States was Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon bomber, in 2015.

“While it’s not impossible that it would happen [in Saipov’s case], it was something to be decided. And now there’s not just pressure, perhaps, from the executive to do this, but a sense of interference with the court process,” Greenberg said. “So they’re now on the defensive and the offensive with this one.”

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and U.S. District Judge George O'Toole (L) are shown in a courtroom sketch after Tsarnaev was sentenced at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts May 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jane Flavell Collins

Not the first case Trump has affected

When asked at a White House press briefing on Thursday whether Trump’s comments could complicate Saipov’s prosecution, national security adviser H.R. McMaster did not directly answer the question.

“What the president wants is to secure the American people from this threat, and from mass murderers like this,” he said. “And so what he’s asked is for options to take a look to assess if our tremendous law enforcement teams and our judicial system has all the tools they need to be able to combat this threat to the American people.”

Saipov is not the first defendant whose case could be affected by Trump’s comments. Earlier this week a military judge said the president’s past remarks about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a servicemember who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 after walking off his military base in Afghanistan, will be a factor in considering a lighter sentence for Bergdahl.

Trump had fiercely criticized Bergdahl during his presidential campaign, calling him the sergeant a “dirty, rotten traitor” and suggesting he be executed.

“I will consider the president’s comments as mitigation evidence as I arrive at an appropriate sentence,” the judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, said at a hearing on Monday.

SEE ALSO: Trump is assailing the diversity visa lottery after the NYC terror attack — here’s what it is

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The NYC attacker asked to display an ISIS flag in his hospital room and planned to attack the Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan attack truck

  • Sayfullo Saipov, who is suspected of killing eight people in a terror attack in Manhattan on Tuesday, planned to continue the bloodshed by striking pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a criminal complaint.
  • He also asked to display an ISIS flag in his hospital room.
  • Saipov faces federal terrorism charges, as well as charges of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.
  • Saipov waived his Miranda rights and spoke to authorities about the attack and his motivation behind it, the complaint said.

The man who allegedly killed eight people on Tuesday in the worst terror attack New York City has seen since 9/11 had planned to continue his rampage down the West Side Highway and onto the Brooklyn Bridge, according to a criminal complaint released Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors charged Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzbekistan, with providing support to the terrorist group ISIS. He is also facing charges of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

Saipov, who is in police custody and recovering from his injuries at Bellevue Hospital, waived his Miranda rights verbally and spoke to law enforcement officials about the attack, the complaint said.

sayfullo saipovHe told authorities he began planning an attack in the US roughly one year ago, and decided two months ago to use a truck “in order to inflict maximum damage against civilians.” He also said he chose the date of October 31 because it was Halloween — a date he believed would draw more civilians out onto the street.

Saipov’s original plan was to plow the rented truck into civilians near the West Side Highway and the drive on to the Brooklyn Bridge to continue the bloodshed. Saipov never made it to the Brooklyn Bridge as he crashed the truck into a school bus near the West Side Highway’s bicycle path.

From there, Saipov exited the truck while yelling “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” and brandished a paintball gun and pellet gun. According to the complaint, Saipov also had a bag of knives, but left them in the truck before exiting.

He also admitted to writing the note found by authorities, which they said was written in Arabic and said the Islamic State would endure forever.

Saipov said he was was motivated to carry out the attack after watching a video featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi asking what Muslims in the US were doing to respond to the killing of Muslims in Iraq.

Saipov also told authorities he had intended to display the black-and-white ISIS flags in the front and rear of his truck, but eventually decided against it so as not to draw attention to himself.

The complaint also noted that Saipov had asked during his interview with authorities if he could display the ISIS flag in his hospital room. He told them that “he felt good about what he had done,” the complaint said.

SEE ALSO: Trump is assailing the diversity visa lottery after the NYC terror attack — here’s what it is

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Criminal Minds and SEAL Team Got Bumped for Baseball – TV Guide

Game 7 of the World Series is an exciting time for sports fans, but maybe not so much for Wednesday’s CBS primetime fans.

This week’s new episodes of Criminal Minds and SEAL Team are being pushed until next week as the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Houston Astros to determine the MLB world champions on Fox. CBS will air a new episode of Survivor as planned, followed by two repeat episodes of SEAL Team from October.

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Criminal Minds will return next week with “The Bunker,” a case that takes the team to Virginia to investigate the kidnappings of four women. On SEAL Team’s, “The Spinning Wheel,” Jason (David Boreanaz) and his crew must work with his longtime rival, Beau Fuller (Sharif Atkins), and his team to plan and perfect a raid under the watchful eye of top military brass.

SEAL Team airs Wednesdays at 9/8c, followed by Criminal Minds at 10/9c.

(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS)

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Trump's Latest Texas US Attorney Picks Get Good Reviews from Criminal Defense Bar –

Ryan Patrick.

President Donald Trump nominated Texans from two well-connected political families as top law enforcement officers in the state in Ryan Patrick for U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas and Joseph D. Brown for U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas.

Patrick, a former Harris County prosecutor who served a judge of the 177th District Court in Houston from 2012 to 2016, is the son of Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

Brown, who has served as Grayson County District Attorney since 2000, is the son of late state District Judge David Brown of Sherman and the nephew of the late U.S. District Judge Paul Brown of Sherman.

“Ryan Patrick and Joe Brown will be excellent United States Attorneys,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “They have both already had distinguished careers in public service—Ryan as an assistant district attorney and state district court judge in Houston, and Joe as the elected district attorney of Grayson County—and I know they will continue to serve the people of Texas honorably in their new roles. I commend the President for these excellent nominations and I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will move quickly to confirm them.”

While both Patrick and Brown are known as staunch political conservatives, they’ve also won the respect of Texas criminal defense lawyers for their fair approach to the law.

“When he was a judge, I was impressed with how hard he worked to be fair,” Houston criminal defense attorney Stan Schneider said of Patrick. “And by that I mean, if an issue came up, he didn’t trust the lawyer to look up the law and tell him what it was — he researched it himself.”

“If you had to pick a young Republican to be U.S. attorney, he’s not a bad choice,” Schneider added. “You want someone like him who’s willing to put in the work to do a good job. He’ll be there early in the morning and late at night to get the job done.’’

And while Patrick’s father has drawn attention to himself for his hard-right politics, lawyers who’ve appeared before Patrick have seen nothing political in the way he conducted himself as a judge.

“I can’t say any of his rulings were any different. I never heard anyone say anything bad about him,’’ said Houston criminal defense attorney Seth Kretzer. “I think he’ll do a pretty good job.’’ Brown also is also well-known and well-liked by attorneys in his home town of Sherman. “He’s a reasonable man and is someone you can talk to and will listen. It doesn’t mean that he’ll agree with you but I’ve always been impressed with the way he’s run his office,’’ said Sherman criminal defense attorney John Hunter Smith.

It’s also meaningful that Brown is from Sherman, which is one of the busiest districts in the Eastern District, Smith said.

“It’s nice to have someone that is from this area and not someone who is from the outside. They know the lawyers and the communities,’’ Smith said.

Brown previously served as an associate at Dallas’ Cowles & Thompson in the 1990s before returning to his home in Sherman to become a prosecutor. While at the civil firm, Brown made a great impression on the firm founder, Jim Cowles, who wrote a recommendation letter to the American Bar Association on Brown’s behalf for the U.S. Attorney position.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like the guy, I don’t know anybody that doesn’t respect him. He’s a quiet guy but he’s very good at the practice of law,” Cowles said. “He’s a quiet, good, solid American guy. And I can’t think of anybody better for the Eastern District.”

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