Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will seek the death penalty against Robert Aaron Long, the Atlanta Spa Shooter who killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, during a shooting rampage on March 16.
The decision brought attention to Wallis’ stance on the death penalty, which has significantly shifted from the time she launched her campaign, to her time in office. Prior to assuming the role, Willis said that she opposed capitol punishment, citing that out of the murder cases she formerly prosecuted, none were appropriate for the death penalty.
“I cannot foresee a case (in which) I would seek death, as I believe that life without parole is an appropriate remedy,” Willis previously stated.
In addition to the death penalty, Willis will also pursue hate crime charges, affirming what many believe, that Long targeted Asian women in an act of hate and misogyny in spite of law enforcement officials who stated otherwise. It marks the first time hate crime charges will be pursued in the county.
In July of last year Georgia’s hate crime statue went into effect after outrage over the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery. It allows “additional penalties to be imposed for certain crimes when motivated by a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender or disability. It also mandates the collection and reporting of data on hate crimes investigated by law enforcement,” according to the Associated Press.
Willis addressed her critics during a Tuesday press conference.
“Last year, I told the voters of Fulton County that I could not imagine a circumstance where I would seek it. And at that time I did not,” she said. “Unfortunately, a case has risen in the first few months of my term that I believe warrants the ultimate penalty and we shall seek it.”
“I have personally reviewed the statement in this case. I have personally walked the crime scene in these cases along with Chief Senior ADA, I have spent more than six hours with the families involved in this case. We have reviewed the evidence and I am comfortable in the decision that this is an appropriate sentence to seek.”
Because Long crossed county lines during the shooting rampage, he faces four counts of murder, aggravated assault, domestic terrorism and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony in Fulton County.
In Cherokee County, Long was also indicted on four counts of murder, criminal attempt to commit murder, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and criminal damage to property in the first degree.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, only one person has been sentenced to death in the state over the last seven years. In 2019 a woman named Tiffany Moss was sentenced to death for starving her 10-year-old stepdaughter to death and attempting to burn her remains inside of a trash can. Moss represented herself, citing that it was “God’s will” to go alone in the trial.
If Long is convicted of the felony charges under the hate crime statue a judge could impose two additional years for a felony and a fine up to $5,000.