Fulton County prosecutors OK to seek death penalty for accused Atlanta spa shooter, judge says

People pay theirs respects at a memorial in honor of the victims of the shootings in Atlanta, during a candle vigil. A man already sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to fatally shooting four people at a massage business outside Atlanta pleaded not guilty to shooting four others on the same day at two spas inside the city.

Damian Dovarganes / AP Photo

A Fulton County judge is allowing prosecutors to pursue the death penalty against the man accused of committing the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings.

Attorneys for Robert Aaron Long argued last year that he should not be put to death because he was a young adult whose brain had not fully developed at the time of the alleged crimes.

They also claimed that Georgia’s process for the death penalty was unconstitutional.

But Chief Judge Ural Glanville recently denied those motions, allowing Long’s death penalty trial to move forward.

Robert Aaron Long is seen during his arraignment in Fulton County Superior Court on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

According to court documents, Glanville found that “neither the federal nor state constitutions prohibit the application of the death penalty against someone who was 21 years old at the time of the alleged offenses.”

Long, now 24, is already serving four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 35 years, for the people he killed at a spa in Cherokee County.

However, he has pleaded not guilty to killing an additional four people, all of whom were women of Asian descent, in Fulton County. District Attorney Fani Willis has said she intends to pursue hate crime sentence enhancements. 

Long’s charges include murder, felony murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, domestic terrorism and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

In 2023, WABE reported that the victims’ families were struggling to navigate the complex legal system.

While death penalty cases almost always take a long time, Long’s case is moving especially slow, because Fulton County is still catching up from COVID delays.

Glanville is also held up in the ongoing organized crime case involving Atlanta rapper Young Thug. His trial is the longest in Georgia’s history.

Meanwhile, a date for Long’s death penalty trial has yet to be set.