Durham's district attorney is scrapping the death penalty in hopes of scheduling a trial in July for a man charged with killing three young Muslims four years ago.
District Attorney Satana DeBerry plans to proceed with a potential life prison sentence to speed up the first-degree murder case against Craig Hicks, she said in a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday. Hicks is accused of bursting into a condo and killing University of North Carolina dental student Deah Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha.
"Their families have suffered not just the tragic death of three bright, beloved children but the continued delay of the prosecution of their case," DeBerry said. "To insure we are able to bring this case to trial as quickly as possible and help begin the process of healing for the families, I have decided to try this as a noncapital case."
[Related: Chapel Hill Mourns Muslim Students Shot And Killed]
DeBerry noted that the womens' father, psychiatrist Mohammad Abu-Salha, testified this week to a congressional hearing on hate crimes. Hicks had expressed hateful comments that the women were wearing head scarves in observance of their faith, he said.
Police said in 2015 that Hicks was angered by a dispute over a parking space in their shared complex.
"Three beautiful young Americans were brutally murdered and there is no question in our minds that this tragedy was born of bigotry and hate," Dr. Abu-Salha testified Tuesday before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. "And because the climate of bigotry is getting worse, I am gravely worried that more tragedies will happen if action is not taken at all levels of government."
Even as he spoke about the details he read in the autopsy reports of his slain daughters and son-in-law, the live chat function on YouTube was disabled because it was overrun by anti-Semitic and white nationalist comments, DeBerry noted.