Suspect in Atlanta spa shootings seeking to avoid death row

Attorneys argued in a filing that his young age should bar the death penalty.

April 20, 2022, 7:40 PM

Attorneys for Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in the Atlanta spa shootings case, are seeking to dismiss the death penalty as he awaits trial on multiple murder charges for the March 2021 massacre.

Long, 23, was indicted last year for the deaths of four women that occurred at Gold Spa and Aromatherapy Spa in Fulton County, Georgia.

He previously pleaded guilty to four other murders that took place the same day at Young's Asian Massage in Cherokee County. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 35 years.

Long pleaded not guilty in Fulton County last year to four counts of murder, among other charges. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she'd seek the death penalty and hate crime charges against Long.

Robert Aaron Long enters Superior Court of Cherokee County in Canton, Ga., July 27, 2021.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

Long appeared in Fulton County court Tuesday for a motions hearing. His attorneys have filed dozens of motions on his behalf ahead of the trial, which is expected to start this fall.

In seeking to dismiss the death penalty, his attorneys argued that the death penalty statute violates his constitutional rights and that the capital jury process could be biased against him.

They also argued that Long's age should bar the death penalty.

"The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment protects Mr. Long from disproportionate and excessive punishment," defense attorneys Jerilyn Bell and Christian Lamar wrote. "Mr. Long's youth at the time of the offense -- he was 21 years old -- substantially lessens his culpability, and a sentence of death would be disproportionate to his diminished moral blameworthiness."

In announcing that she would seek the death penalty, Willis told reporters that the case "warrants the ultimate penalty."

Willis also filed sentencing enhancements under Georgia’s hate crime law, which offers guidelines for anyone convicted of targeting a person based on race, color, religion and gender. Willis said at the time that race and gender played a role in the shooting.

In this March 19, 2021, file photo, people bring flowers to the memorial sight set up outside of The Gold Spa in Atlanta.
Megan Varner/Getty Images, FILE

In the shooting spree, which occurred across two spas on March 16, 2021, six out of the eight people killed were Asian women.

The victims in Fulton County were Suncha Kim, 69; Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

Paul Michels, 54; Xiaojie "Emily" Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Delaina Yaun, 33, were killed in the shooting in Cherokee County.

When he entered his guilty plea in Cherokee County court last year, Long said he loathed his sex addiction and that he blamed it on the spas he claims to have frequented for sex.

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