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The white man accused of killing 10 Black people in Buffalo will be back in court

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The 18-year-old white man accused of a mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., appeared in court today. It was a short hearing. Prosecutors were given more time to put together their case against the alleged gunman who killed 10 Black people at a supermarket. NPR's Cheryl Corley was in the courtroom and joins us now. Cheryl, describe the scene there today.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Well, first, the prosecuting attorneys came out - there were three of them - and then the defense team - also three attorneys - and the suspect. And he came into court wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles. In the audience, there were family members of the victims. And as you mentioned, it was a short hearing. The prosecutors asked for and received more time. The next court date is in June. As the suspect was being led out of the courtroom, there was an outburst in the court. A woman in the audience shouted, hey, you're a coward. And after that, everybody was urged to leave the courtroom.

MARTIN: Did any attorney speak after the hearing?

CORLEY: Well, no. The prosecution didn't speak, and neither did the defense. The DA's office did send out a news release saying that the next court date would be for June 9. Although no one spoke publicly, we did hear from the DA, John Flynn, earlier in the week who said that this is not an open-and-shut case.

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JOHN FLYNN: Emotions are high. I understand the rawness of this matter. However, I do not operate in the court of public opinion. I operate in a court of law. And this defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

CORLEY: And Flynn said more charges may come, however, after a grand jury does convene and investigates the shooting and there's also a parallel federal investigation.

MARTIN: This massacre was livestreamed for about 2 minutes on a social media channel before it was taken down. The suspect also apparently posted documents with racist language promoting white supremacy. Are those going to factor into the trial?

CORLEY: You know, it really depends on whether those things are admitted in court. The battle over evidence always plays out in trials in and what evidence is allowed is sure to be an argument between the defense and prosecutors if the plea remains the same and as this case moves forward.

MARTIN: So I want to talk about New York Governor Kathy Hochul. Along with the state's attorney general, she has decided to go after social media companies, right? Tell us what she wants to do.

CORLEY: Well, Governor Hochul says the nation's biggest threat is really the mainstreaming of hate speech and white supremacy and easy access to military-style weapons and ammunition. She sent a referral letter requesting Attorney General Letitia James to investigate social media platforms like Twitch and 4chan and others that were apparently used to amplify the attack here. And Hochul says she also signed an executive order that sets up a domestic terrorism unit.

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KATHY HOCHUL: They'll develop the best practices for law enforcement, for mental health professionals, for school officials to address the rise in homegrown extremism. And we'll make sure that they're trained to know how it occurs, where it occurs and how to stop it.

MARTIN: The governor also announced tighter gun controls, at least plans for them.

CORLEY: Yes. She asked state lawmakers to close gun law loopholes that allow specialty guns to be sold without permits and lots of other things in a very comprehensive package.

MARTIN: OK. We'll look for more on that. NPR's Cheryl Corley in Buffalo, thank you.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.