Federal prosecutors said they will not seek the death penalty for a 22-year-old former nursing student charged in a deadly shooting at a Southern California synagogue on the last day of Passover.
The decision was disclosed Monday in a one-sentence court filing in federal court in San Diego. It comes less than two months after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland halted federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a review of its policies and procedures.
In July, John T. Earnest pleaded guilty to murder and other charges in state court. The San Diego County district attorney's office said at the time that he agreed to serve the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 30.
In the federal case, Earnest submitted a conditional plea agreement for consideration by federal prosecutors in June 4, the terms of which have not been disclosed. A hearing in that case is scheduled Sept. 8.
The district attorney said it consulted with some of the victims' families before agreeing to the deal, aware that a possible plea arrangement in the federal prosecution would prevent the state's case from moving forward.
"While we reserved the option of trying this as a death penalty case, life in prison without the possibility of parole for the defendant is an appropriate resolution to this violent hate crime and we hope it brings a measure of justice and closure to the victims, their families, friends and the wider community," the office said.
Earnest opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle during the last day of Passover services in April 2019 at Chabad of Poway. The attack killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded three others, including an 8-year-old girl and the rabbi, who lost a finger.
Earnest then called 911 to say he had shot up a synagogue because Jews were trying to "destroy all white people," authorities said.