A Manhattan prosecutor Tuesday showed eight gruesome photos at a sentencing hearing for West Side Highway terrorist Sayfullo Saipov — one of each of his victims — as jurors weigh whether to execute the mass murderer.
Assistant US Attorney Amanda Houle also described in excruciating detail in her closing argument the anguish that family members of the victims face to this day.
She highlighted previous testimony from slain New Yorker Nicholas Cleves’s mother, who had told jurors that grief was seared into her and “consumed me and never left me since.”
“She’s just existing,” Houle said of the mother, Monica Missio.
The prosecutor also described to jurors the moment New Jersey resident Darren Drake’s parents identified his body at the Medical Examiner’s Office the day after the Oct. 31, 2017 attack.
Drake’s father, Jimmy, “ran out of the building and onto the street because he could not bear to see what the defendant had done to his only child,” Houle said.
The prosecutor noted the young children of slain Belgian tourist Ann-Laure Decadt, one of whom was just weeks old when his mother was mowed down and killed by Saipov.
The child, Joseph, was “left without a single memory of his mother,” Houle said.
Decadt’s older son, Raphael, struggles to make sense of his mother’s killing, Houle added, and once took his elementary school class to the cemetery where his mother is buried.
“How much weight is due to the pain and loss the defendant chose to inflict on these families? We submit it is overwhelming,” Houle told jurors in arguing for the death penalty for the killer.
The Uzbekistan immigrant killed eight people on the West Side Highway bike path in Lower Manhattan by mowing them down with a rented Home Depot truck.
The photos that the prosecutor showed in court Tuesday depicted most of his lifeless victims bloodied, maimed and splayed across the bike path. In one of the snapshots, Decadt, the Belgian woman killed by Saipov, is seen strapped to a medical stretcher.
After Saipov was arrested, he gave a “proud” confession to an FBI agent and requested an ISIS flag to hang in the hospital room where he was recovering from police-fired gunshot wounds he suffered during the attack.
Saipov was convicted in January of 28 counts for the terror attack, which triggered the penalty phase of the trial, during which prosecutors and defense lawyers have presented evidence and questioned witnesses.
“Today you will hear a lot about the choice before you. The choice of what punishment fits this crime,” Houle told jurors Tuesday.
“But I want to start with the choices that brought us all here. The choices of Sayfullo Saipov, a proud terrorist. He chose to come to this country and then fight for an enemy,” Houle said.
“He chose to murder an innocent person and then he chose to do it seven more times,” she added.
In his closing, defense lawyer David Patton told jurors they did not have to vote to condemn Saipov to death to ensure he does not commit another violent crime.
“It is not necessary to kill Sayfull Saipov. Not for our safety or anyone else’s and not to do justice,” Patton said.
“Nothing we do can undue what Mr. Saipov did. We can’t rewind the clock and make it so this senseless crime never happened,” Patton said. “All you can do is make the right deciision moving forward.”
Patton said the decision that hangs in the balance on the jury is an “awesome responsibility and power” — and reitereated that if just one of them votes for life in prison, Saipov’s life will be spared.
The terrorist’s lawyers had called a number of Saipov’s relatives in an attempt to humanize him in the eyes of the jury during the penalty phase. Several of the witnesses sobbed on the stand as they told jurors knowing that Saipov is alive would have meaning for them.
Saipov’s father, Habibulloh Saipov, told jurors that despite what his son had done he still loved him, “with all my heart.”