President Trump has been downright gleeful on Twitter as he muses about possible punishments for the suspect in the New York City terror attack carried out Tuesday. The alleged perpetrator is one Sayfullo Saipov, an Uzbek immigrant who has been in the U.S. for the past seven years. Unlike Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, Trump hasn’t praised Saipov’s smarts or chalked the attack up to mental illness. Instead, Trump was at first thinking that Guantanamo Bay would be an appropriate place for Saipov to end up. Now, however, he’s decided that process would take too long.
Yesterday, Trump tweeted, “NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!” The POTUS followed up on that sentiment again this morning, explaining that he “[w]ould love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo but statistically that process takes much longer than going through the Federal system…” Trump also noted that “…There is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed. Should move fast. DEATH PENALTY!”
Similar cases though, such as that of Boston marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, aren’t exactly speedy even if they do result in a capital sentence. Tsarnaev’s prosecution took two years before the verdict was handed down. Although he was convicted in 2015, he’s still in custody at a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. Tsarnaev is still able to lobby for appeal, a long and drawn-out process that buys him time if not his freedom.
In other words, as much as Trump seems to want to hurry Saipov to execution, there is still a process that the New York State and federal justice systems have to uphold. Especially in high profile trials, it’s important to proceed carefully and build a strong, air-tight case that won’t end in mistrial, a hung jury, or endless appeals. New York State, for that matter, doesn’t even have death penalty laws on the books and hasn’t executed a prisoner since 1963. And no matter how much Trump tweets, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments still guarantee due process, even for suspected terrorists.