Death penalty decision for airport shooting suspect to be announced Tuesday, feds say

Federal prosecutors now say they will announce Tuesday whether they’ll seek the death penalty for , the man accused of fatally shooting five people and wounding six at ’s international airport.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge Beth set a Monday deadline for officials at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., to file their decision.

On Monday afternoon, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said prosecutors will make their announcement during a previously scheduled court hearing Tuesday morning in federal court in .

Santiago has pleaded not guilty to a 22-count indictment in the mass shooting Jan. 6, 2017, at . Ten of those charges carry a potential death sentence or life in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors rarely seek a death sentence and it is even rarer for jurors to endorse their requests.

Only 61 people are on federal death row, according to statistics compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. Since Congress reinstated the death penalty in 1988, only three prisoners have been executed – in 2001 and 2003.

, now 28, is an Iraq War veteran with documented mental health problems. He grew up in Puerto Rico and most recently lived in Anchorage, Alaska.

He is locked up in the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and has been prescribed medication to treat his diagnosis of schizophrenia.

He was briefly hospitalized for psychiatric care in Alaska in November 2016, two months before the shooting. He had driven to the office in Anchorage, asked for help and told agents he was hearing voices and thought the government was controlling his mind.

After Santiago surrendered at the airport, FBI agents said he . Later in the interview, he said he was inspired by the Islamic State extremist group, but authorities said no terrorism links have been found.

His trial is tentatively scheduled for June in federal court in Miami but will likely be delayed for several months if the prosecution pursues the death penalty.

In the federal system, or life behind bars takes much longer than in Florida’s state system. The final decision lies with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The process included an initial, secret recommendation by Greenberg, the local U.S. attorney, made after he consulted with a local committee.

That recommendation was then reviewed by a panel of experts in the in Washington, D.C., which also issued a secret recommendation.

Family members of , as well as Santiago’s defense team, were also permitted to provide their input during the process.

If the prosecution seeks the death penalty, a federal jury in South Florida would first have to decide if Santiago is guilty and then decide on the appropriate punishment.

In federal cases, the jury’s decision is binding on the sentencing judge. A 12-0 verdict in favor of death is required. If the prosecution does not seek the death penalty and the jury finds Santiago guilty of the most serious offenses, he would face life in federal prison.

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