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Judge bars death penalty in Newark gang slayings

December 18, 2017 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge has barred federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty against an alleged gang leader charged in several Newark slayings, ending the prospect of the second federal death penalty prosecution in state history.

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas said in an opinion issued Monday that Farad Roland’s intellectual disability made him ineligible for capital punishment under the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the Federal Death Penalty Act, NJ.com reports that

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Roland, 33, is charged with murder in aid of racketeering in five killings allegedly committed by a Bloods-affiliated drug-trafficking gang in Newark’s South Ward that investigators said controlled the drug trade for much of the 2000s.

Salas cited Roland’s academic and development struggles, including being labeled “mentally retarded” by the Social Security Administration at age 14. Testimony by expert witnesses and evidence submitted on Roland’s behalf “abundantly satisfied his burden of proving his intellectual disability by a preponderance of the evidence,” the ruling said.

Defense attorney Richard Jasper called the ruling “thorough, detailed, thoughtful.” The U.S. attorney’s office declined comment.

Although New Jersey abolished the death penalty at the state level in 2007, capital punishment is still possible under federal criminal law. The 2007 trial of a Newark drug dealer ultimately convicted of ordering the killing of an FBI informant ended with a life sentence after jurors split on whether the defendant deserved execution.

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Information from: NJ Advance Media.