Nov 13, 2020
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.
\u201c.@TheJusticeDept must suspend all executions until the Biden-Harris administration transitions into power. \n\nThe American people have spoken and the federal death penalty should be abolished.\u201d— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley) 1605313895
"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.
\u201cIt's not just Lisa Montgomery, either. There are significant issues in the cases of Orlando Hall and Brandon Bernard as well. These human beings should not be killed by our government, especially not by a lame-duck administration with just two months left.\u201d— Sister Helen Prejean (@Sister Helen Prejean) 1604972115
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.
\u201cAfter a hiatus of 17 years, the Trump administration resumed federal executions in July. We urge the US Attorney General to withdraw any pending death warrants and abandon any plans to pursue further executions.\n\n\ud83d\udea8ACTION NEEDED: https://t.co/2b7e752CQD\u201d— Amnesty International USA (@Amnesty International USA) 1605308466
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've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.