Opening comments from federal prosecutors were scheduled to be delivered on Monday in the case of the man accused of using a truck to kill eight people on a bike route in Manhattan on Halloween of 2017.
Sayfullo Saipov, 34, has entered a not guilty plea to a 28-count indictment accusing him of murder and giving material support to the Islamic State, a Middle Eastern militant group that the US has designated as a terrorist organization.
The U.S. Department of Justice told Judge Vernon Broderick of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan in September that it intends to seek the death penalty for Saipov, an Uzbek national. It is the first federal death penalty trial under U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat who took office in January 2021. If convicted, Saipov could also be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Prosecutors say Saipov intentionally used a Home Depot rental truck to mow down people on a pedestrian and bike path along the West Side Highway on Oct. 31, 2017, hoping to gain membership in Islamic State.
According to prosecutors, Saipov chose Halloween because he thought more people would be on the streets, and also planned to strike the Brooklyn Bridge.
Those killed included five Argentinian tourists and one Belgian tourist. More than a dozen other people were severely injured.
Prosecutors have told the court they intend to show the 12-member jury photographs and videos of the attack.
Saipov has been jailed since his arrest.
After U.S. Attorney General Merrick halted federal executions in July 2021 while the Justice Department reviewed its use of the penalty, it was decided to pursue the death penalty against Saipov.
After a 17-year hiatus, federal executions had been resumed in 2020 under Republican then-President Donald Trump. Thirteen executions were carried out before Trump left office in 2021.
In the event that the jury finds Saipov guilty of any capital offenses, they will have to decide whether to sentence him to death after the first phase of the trial.