Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Police officers gather to remove activists during an anti death penalty protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Police officers gather to remove activists during an anti death penalty protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

With 'Irrevocable Injustice' on the Line, Democratic Lawmakers Demand Trump Admin Put Brakes on Federal Killing Spree

"The American people have spoken and the federal death penalty should be abolished."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A group of Democratic lawmakers on Friday demanded the Trump administration halt federal executions—a practice it brought back after a 17-year hiatus—citing the threat of "irrevocable injustice."

"While you will remain in office for a few more weeks, going forward with executions in the weeks before the new administration takes office would be a grave injustice," the lawmakers wrote to Attorney General William Barr.

Penned by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), the letter points to July, when the administration "recklessly restarted" the state-sanctioned killings following Barr's 2019 directive to the Bureau of Prisons.

"In less than three months, the administration executed seven people—more than the total number executed over the previous six decades," states letter.

And, if Barr fails to heed the lawmakers' demand, the number will likely grow. Orlando Hall is scheduled to die by lethal injection November 19. Two other federal executions are set for December, those of Brandon Bernard and horrific abuse victim Lisa Montgomery. 

Reasons for a suspension in the federal executions abound, the Democrats said, pointing to the fact that it "is disproportionately imposed on Black and brown people and low income people, and at least 172 people sentenced to death have reportedly been exonerated after languishing for years on death row." Despite such facts, "the administration has aggressively pushed forward over objections from family members of victims and despite Eighth Amendment objections to the manner of execution."

What's more, said the lawmakers, American voters just delivered a clear victory to President-elect Joe Biden, who pledged to work to eliminate the death penalty, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who is a co-sponsor to legislation Durbin, Leahy, and Booker introduced last year to end federal executions. 

The lawmakers aren't alone in their demand: Amnesty International USA on Thursday reiterated its call for a halt on the scheduled federal executions.

The human rights group is urging its supporters to write to Barr to pressure him "to intervene and lead the urgent review of the broken U.S. death penalty system."

"After a hiatus of 17 years, the Trump administration resumed federal executions on 14 July 2020, putting to death seven men over 10 weeks," Amnesty wrote. "Their cases reflected concerns on arbitrariness, racial bias, and unfairness that have long affected the U.S. death penalty system, as well as contempt for international law restrictions on the use of the death penalty. We urge the U.S. Attorney General to withdraw any pending death warrants and abandon any plans to pursue further executions."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Dems Introduce Abolition Amendment to Scrap Constitution's 'Slavery Clause'

"The loophole in our Constitution's ban on slavery not only allowed slavery to continue, but launched an era of discrimination and mass incarceration that continues to this day," said Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


'Surreal' and 'Distressing': Climate Experts' Predictions Come True With US Heatwave

"The current heatwave and drought leave no doubt, we are living the dangerous effects of the climate crisis."

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·