March 18, 2021
- Robert Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of murder by Georgia prosecutors Wednesday.
- Eight people, six of whom were Asian, were killed at three Atlanta massage parlours on Tuesday.
- Long said he did it to remove sexual temptation but prosecutors are considering hate crime charges.
The suspect in Tuesday night’s Atlanta-area shootings could meet the threshold for receiving the death penalty under Georgia law.
On Wednesday, prosecutors charged Robert Aaron Long, 21, with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault after shootings took place at three massage parlors across the city area.
In a press conference on Wednesday, law enforcement officials said that Long admitted to carrying out the attacks. However, he has yet to enter a plea to the charges.
He is due to appear in court Thursday, where he may issue a plea but does not have to.
If Long is ultimately convicted, the charges open him to Georgia’s death penalty. Prosecutors would have to choose whether to pursue it, and so far have not discussed the matter in public.
Under title 17 of the 2010 Georgia Code, most murders do not qualify for punishment by death.
But if one of 11 criteria are met, then it can be considered. They are listed here by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which also reported that Long could face the death penalty.
Some of the criteria – such as if the offender was on the run from prison, or if the victim was a police officer – appear not to apply. Others are broader, such as if the killings took place during another crime, or using a particularly dangerous weapon.
In Georgia, the death penalty is carried out by lethal injection. As of January, 39 men and one woman were on death row, state Department of Corrections data shows.
Out of the eight people killed on Tuesday night, six were Asian women, meaning prosecutors are deciding whether to charge Long with a hate crime, The Atlanta Journal Constitution and 11Alive reported.
Long told law enforcement that race did not play a part in the attack, saying instead that he was a sex addict and wanted to remove temptation.
“During his interview, he gave no indicators that this was racially motivated,” Frank Reynolds, Cherokee County Sheriff, said Wednesday.
“We asked him that specifically and the answer was no.”
The attack on Tuesday is the latest in a series which indicates attacks on Asian Americans in the US is on the rise.
As of Thursday morning, four of the Atlanta-area victims had been identified: Xiaojie Tan, 49, Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, Paul Andre Michels, 54, and Daoyou Feng, 44.
David Barkley, senior Southeast counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, told the AJC: “We would urge the local prosecutor to bring hate crime charges along with the other charges.”