The Justice Department says it won’t seek the death penalty for two men it says orchestrated the smuggling run this summer that ended up killing 53 illegal immigrants in Texas.
Prosecutors informed the federal court in western Texas of the decision on Monday.
“Review by the Attorney General has been completed and his decision has been received. The Government will NOT seek a death sentence against these defendants,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a filing.
The Justice Department declined to comment on its decision.
Homero Zamorano Jr. and Christian Martinez face four smuggling charges, including one of transporting illegal aliens resulting in death.
Even without the possibility of a death sentence, the charge of smuggling resulting in death could net life in prison.
Three children and 50 adults died, and 11 others were injured, including a child, after being trapped in the trailer.
Police officers who first reached the truck on a street off the interstate in San Antonio found bodies strewn about the scene, some already dead and others incapacitated. Officers nabbed Mr. Zamorano hiding nearby.
Probing his phone, investigators found communications with Mr. Martinez suggesting he had recruited Mr. Martinez to drive the people.
Investigators said they had already been eyeing Mr. Martinez before the catastrophic incident. They had an informant approach Mr. Martinez and ask about the deaths, and they said Mr. Martinez admitted his role. Investigators said Mr. Martinez revealed the driver didn’t know the air conditioning unit had stopped, which is why the migrants died.
Federal agents also pored over video from a Border Patrol highway checkpoint on the road from Laredo to San Antonio and identified Mr. Zamorano as the driver when the truck went through the checkpoint.
A lawyer for Mr. Martinez declined to comment on the government’s decision.
The Times has reached out to the lawyer for Mr. Zamorano for comment.