EL PASO, Texas — Accused El Paso Walmart gunman Patrick Crusius entered a written plea of not guilty late Thursday to scores of federal hate crime and gun charges he faces stemming from the mass shooting.
He also waived the right to a formal arraignment hearing - which ironically had been scheduled for Aug. 3 at 11 a.m., on the same day at almost the same time as the shootings occurred a year ago that ultimately left 23 dead and dozens more injured.
In a separate federal court filing late Thursday, the U.S. Attorney for West Texas opposed any further delay in the prosecution of Crusius, saying it would amount to a "miscarriage of justice."
The comment by U.S. Attorney John Bash came in response to a recent move by defense lawyers seeking to delay the government's decision on whether to seek the death penalty against Crusius. (You can read the entire filing at the bottom of this article.)
“Crusius has no cognizable right to participate in the Government’s internal death-penalty review process, let alone on a schedule of his choosing,” Bash wrote.
Crusius' lawyers say their client has diagnosed mental disabilities that should be a “red flag” for federal prosecutors when making their determination on capital punishment.
The defense has sought more time to investigate these “mitigating themes” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors have previously indicated their intent to make a sentence decision by July 30. But the defense claims that timeline would violate Crusius’ constitutional rights because the virus has stalled investigation of issues the government must consider.
Crusius was arrested soon after the shootings happened at the Cielo Vista Walmart and police said he later confessed to driving to El Paso from his home near Dallas to target Mexicans, whom he allegedly ranted about in an online manifesto.
Crusius has also pleaded not guilty in the state capital murder case where prosecutors are already seeking the death penalty. A trial date has not been set in either the state or federal cases.
(The Associated Press contributed background to this report.)