The US Justice Department is seeking the death penalty against an alleged MS-13 gang leader in Virginia, according to court documents filed Monday.
Elmer Martinez, known by the alias “Killer,” is accused of ordering the kidnappings and murders of two minors in 2016, according to court documents. Martinez has pleaded not guilty.
The move comes after the Trump administration announced that it would restart federal executions in July. The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a series of executions slated for early December, pending a final decision from a lower court.
“I’m greatly disappointed,” said Martinez’s lawyer Robert Jenkins. “We believe the allegations against Mr. Martinez, while grave, are not distinguishable from many other similar cases that are prosecuted in federal courts against the country.”
Martinez is charged, along with a dozen other defendants, of luring the two minors to a park on the outskirts of Alexandria, Virginia, where they were killed and buried. Both minors were only listed in court documents by their initials.
One was accused by MS-13 gang members of being a spy for the rival 18th Street gang, while the second was suspected of cooperating with law enforcement, according to court documents.
The Justice Department and prosecutors did not respond to CNN’s multiple requests for comment.
To Jenkins, the decision to pursue the death penalty against his client is a political one. President Donald Trump has targeted MS-13 in the past, calling members “animals.”
“The distinction is that Mr. Martinez’s background matches up nicely with the rhetoric the President has been spewing ever since he was a candidate for the office,” Jenkins said. “We believe he’s been selected for a death penalty prosecution simply to further President Trump’s immigration policy.”
Martinez is expected to appear in court for a hearing Friday, Jenkins said.