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Durham district attorney will not push for death penalty for man charged in Muslim Chapel Hill students' deaths

In 2015, a vigil was held for the three students who were killed.
In 2015, a vigil was held for the three students who were killed.

Durham County's district attorney said Thursday that she will not pursue the death penalty for a man charged with killing three Muslim college students in 2015.

The three students—Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19—were fatally shot in their Chapel Hill residence on Feb.10, 2015. They were students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina State University. 

Craig Hicks has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Satana DeBerry, the Durham County district attorney, said Thursday that Hicks will go to trial this summer, according to the News and Observer

Deberry, J.D. '94 and MBA '06, plans to proceed with a "noncapital case" to expedite the process, she said. Whereas capital cases are eligible for the death penalty, Hicks would receive life in prison if convicted, the News and Observer reported. 

“The longer we delay the trial of Mr. Hicks, the longer we bring additional suffering to the Barakat and Abu-Salha families,” DeBerry said in a statement, according to the News and Observer. “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.”

After the shooting, a preliminary investigation said that the shooting was motivated by an ongoing parking dispute. The killing has been called a hate crime by others. 

The father of the two Abu-Salha sisters recently spoke at a House Judiciary hearing on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism. He said at the hearing that the "tragedy was born out of bigotry and hate."

"I am afraid for our country," Mohammad Abu-Salha said at the House hearing. "Please remember them: Deah, Yusor and Razan. They are all my children and they are gone."