Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, said Tuesday that the man accused of killing eight people at spas in and around Atlanta had targeted four women at two massage businesses there because of their race, national origin, sex and gender in a hate crime that merited her pursuit of the death penalty against him, reports the New York Times. The suspect, Robert Aaron Long, 22, who is white, was formally indicted on murder charges on Tuesday for the killings at three massage businesses in and around Atlanta, which shook the country in March amid a wave of anti-Asian hate crimes.
Willis said she had reviewed statements that Long had given to investigators and believed that seeking the death penalty and hate crime enhancements was appropriate, but she did not lay out any new evidence about his motivations. Grand jurors in Fulton County also indicted Long on one count of domestic terrorism, saying he had intended to “intimidate the civilian population” of Georgia. Willis filed a notice in court that she will seek hate crime penalties if Long is convicted of murder. Under a new Georgia law, a prosecutor can ask a jury to determine if a person convicted of a crime was motivated by race or other factors, which carries an additional penalty. Willis said she believed she is the first prosecutor in the state to seek to use the law since it went into effect last July.