As the nation commemorates the second anniversary of the deadly Atlanta-area spa mass shootings, gunman Robert Aaron Long still faces the death penalty, a process that could drag on for years after repeated delays.
Long, 23, is already serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to the four murders that took place in Cherokee County on March 16, 2021. However, he pleaded not guilty to the other four killings in Fulton County later that year.
Fulton prosecutors have since pursued the death penalty, which could mark the first application of the law in the county. They are also seeking a hate crime enhancement as they believe race and gender played a role in the crime, considering all of Long’s victims in Fulton County were Asian women.
The Fulton shooting victims were Soon Chung Park, 74; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; and Hyun Jung Grant, 51.
The death penalty trial was expected to proceed in October 2022 but was pushed back at the request of prosecutors.
Attorneys for both sides agreed that they needed more time to prepare in light of a new Supreme Court decision and a new state law on expert testimony.
A status hearing earlier this year resulted in another delay, according to a new report.
As it turned out, Chief Judge Ural Glanville had scheduled motion hearings in May.
“Certain days in May have been set aside for a motions hearing,” a spokesperson with the Superior Court of Fulton County said, as per 11Alive. “While the delay has been caused by many different factors, one of the most significant is the need for the parties to prepare and respond to the numerous motions that have been filed.”
Long’s legal team filed several motions last year to keep him off death row. In one of their arguments, they claimed that Long — who was 21 at the time of the shootings — was yet to have a fully-developed brain when he walked into the spas and shot his victims, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis has stated that Long’s death penalty has the “complete support” of the victims’ families.
“The decisions that I made to seek death were with the complete support of the family,” Willis told reporters in August 2021. “I am very comfortable with my decision to request sentencing enhancement based on the fact that race and gender played a role.”
“Lady Justice is finally blind … every single person in this community has value and we will fight for them as hard as we would fight for any victim,” she added.