A judge in North Carolina has ruled that a man charged with murdering three Muslims last February could be subjected to the death penalty if he is convicted of the crimes. Craig Hicks has been charged with three counts of murder regarding the shooting deaths of his neighbors, who were a newlywed couple, and the teenage sister of the wife.
The 46-year-old man appeared in court on Monday and answered the judge formally and politely by saying, "Yes, sir." Then prosecutors brought forward evidence to support the pursuit of capital punishment, i.e., the death penalty, against the man.
The shootings happened last Feb. 10. Three students were shot to death, the 23-year-old man who is attending the University of North Carolina as a dental student; his 21-year-old wife; and the sister of the wife, a 19-year-old North Carolina State University student. The tragedy has taken the world by storm, as people from all faiths and nationalities mourn the loss of these three young adults.
Family Believes It Was a Hate Crime
According to family members of the victims, they believe that the alleged murderer was drawn to shoot the victims as a result of his hatred for Muslims. Several family members were present at Monday's hearing in the murder trial, but they did not comment on the result of the hearing.
Local authorities and federal officials continue to investigate the murder to determine if it was indeed a hate crime. Therefore, more charges relating to hate crimes could be added to the charges against Hicks.
According to the district attorney for Durham County, a first-degree murder charge is the worst that a North Carolina resident can be found guilty of. "That is our focus," he said.
Strong Evidence Against the Accused
Court records indicate that Craig Hicks' blood was found on the clothing of one of the victims. Further, gunshot residue was found on his hands. Additionally, when Hicks turned himself in to authorities following the shooting, the firearm he allegedly used to kill the victims was in his possession. Prosecutors presented this evidence in court on Monday.
The evidence certainly suggests that Craig Hicks did indeed shoot the victims in this case. Nevertheless, we will have to wait and see how this criminal matter proceeds before we will know the end result of the case, and whether the death penalty will be ordered. Finally, it should be noted that family members of the deceased may have strong claims for wrongful death damages against Hicks, especially if he is found guilty of the murder crimes.
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