Prosecutors seeking death penalty for alleged MS-13 member accused in 7 murders
A suspected MS-13 gang member accused in the murders of seven people could be sentenced to death if he's found guilty.
Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in their case against Jairo Saenz, the alleged No. 2 leader of MS-13. They say Saenz brutally murdered two Brentwood High School students.
The announcement comes four months after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty against Jairo's brother Alexi Saenz, the alleged leader of the gang in the 2016 killing of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens.
Prosecutors say she and Cuevas were murdered with baseball bats and machetes over a petty dispute between Cuevas and the alleged gang members.
When asked about the death penalty, Mickens' father said he's against it, saying, "Why does another family have to suffer the way I'm suffering?"
Anti-gang activist Sergio Argueta says the death penalty does little to deter gang membership and gang-related crimes.
"What we know is harsh penalties have never really had an impact in interrupting the gang pipeline," he says. "So if you want to keep people from gang life, what you do is offer opportunities before they get involved."
Prosecutors say the death penalty is called for because the killings were carried out "in an especially heinous, cruel and depraved manner in that it involved torture and serious physical abuse to the victims."
Death penalty expert Richard Klein says historically, the federal government has sought the death penalty to put pressure on the defendants to enter a guilty plea.
"Sometimes if a defendant knows -- 'if I go to trial, I can well receive the death penalty,' the defendant then might attempt to work out a plea deal where the defendant would enter a plea of guilty, there wouldn't be the need for the trial, there wouldn't be the need for the families to have to testify," says Klein.
If either of the Saenz brothers are convicted at trial and put to death, it would mark the first federal execution involving a murder in New York since 1954.