More than three dozen members of Congress signed onto a letter Tuesday calling for President-elect Joe Biden to halt the federal government’s use of the death penalty and show he’s willing “to dismantle its use altogether.”
“With a stroke of your pen, you can stop all federal executions, prohibit United States Attorneys from seeking the death penalty, dismantle death row at FCC [Federal Correctional Complex] Terre Haute, and call for the resentencing of people who are currently sentenced to death,” read the letter, which was spearheaded by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. “Each of these elements are critical to help prevent greater harm and further loss of life.”
Pressley’s fellow “Squad” members–Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan–signed onto the letter and have been outspoken in their opposition to the death penalty. Other signatories have been vocal in their opposition as well.
The group of 40 Democratic members, plus three members-elect, sent the letter amid a broader uproar over the Trump administration executing a series of criminals in recent weeks. Its execution of convicted murderer Daniel Lewis Lee in July was the first federal execution in 17 years.
NEWEST ‘SQUAD’ MEMBER WANTS CLEMENCY FOR EVERY DEATH ROW INMATE
“The current administration has weaponized capital punishment with callous disregard for human life,” the letter read. “In the middle of our current public health crisis, the Department of Justice resumed federal executions and executed more people in six months than the total number executed over the previous six decades.”
It added that the members would work to pass Pressley’s bill abolishing the death penalty, as well as investigate how lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
While Biden’s website includes a pledge to advance legislation that would end the death penalty, Pressley’s letter demanded he issue an executive order on his first day in office.
Newly-elected “Squad” Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., who joined Tuesday’s letter, has also called on Biden to grant clemency for remaining death row inmates.
In scheduling executions, the Justice Department described three death row inmates as engaging in “staggeringly brutal murders, including the murder of a child and, with respect to two inmates, the murder of multiple victims.”
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Earlier this year, U.S. Attorney General William Barr backed the practice, saying: “The American people, acting through Congress and Presidents of both political parties, have long instructed that defendants convicted of the most heinous crimes should be subject to a sentence of death.”
He added: “The four murderers whose executions are scheduled today have received full and fair proceedings under our Constitution and laws. We owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes, and to the families left behind, to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
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