WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is putting forth seven new Justice Department and judicial nominations covering three US attorney’s offices in Texas and other senior posts. One is a prosecutor who vowed to seek the death penalty for a man who killed nearly two dozen people in a racist attack at a Walmart.
The nominations, announced by the White House on Friday, include three for US marshals in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah, along with a nomination of a longtime prosecutor to become a federal judge in Mississippi.
Among the nominations is that of Jaime Esparza, who had served as district attorney for El Paso County, Texas, from 1993 to 2020, to be the US attorney for the Western District of Texas. As district attorney, he secured a capital murder indictment and vowed to pursue the death penalty for Patrick Crusius, the North Texas man accused of targeting Mexicans during a 2019 mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart that left dozens of wounded and ultimately killed 23 people.
Crusius also faces federal hate crime charges, and if confirmed, Esparza would be a key figure in deciding whether to pursue the federal death penalty in the case. Ultimately that decision falls to senior Justice Department officials, generally based on the recommendation from the US attorney.
Biden has said he is opposed to the death penalty and has vowed to end its use while in office. Attorney General Merrick Garland has halted federal executions following an unprecedented run of capital punishment in the waning months of the Trump administration and ordered a review of the procedures and policies surrounding the practice. The moratorium applies only to executions and doesn’t prohibit prosecutors from seeking the death penalty.
Federal prosecutors in West Texas also face a consequential decision about whether to bring