Democrats Introduce Bill to End Federal Death Penalty

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) are unveiling legislation that would seek to end federal capital punishment, putting a focus on the issue as their party prepares to take over control of Congress and the White House, NPR reports. “There are three lives that hang in the balance this week alone,” Pressley said. “State-sanctioned murder is not justice.” Former Attorney General William Barr announced in July 2019 that the Justice Department would resume federal executions, ending a nearly two-decade hiatus. At the time, Barr and Justice Department officials said they were carrying out the will of judges and juries and providing justice for “staggeringly brutal murders.”

The federal government executed 10 prisoners last year, more prisoners than all the states combined over the same period. More executions are scheduled for the final days of the Trump administration. “Here we are in the closing hours of the Trump administration, when they are in a mad dash to give pardons for federal crimes committed by their friends, and an equally mad dash to try to execute these people who have been on death row for years, if not decades,” said Durbin. “That is just unconscionable.” Biden has said he wants to work with Congress to pass a law to eliminate capital punishment at the federal level and to “incentivize” states to follow that example. A divided federal appeals court delayed the execution of Lisa Montgomery, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday — the first woman to face the federal death penalty in nearly seven decades. The 5-4 order, which can be appealed to the Supreme Court, came just before midnight Monday and would put off Montgomery’s execution until after President Trump leaves office next week, the Washington Post reports.

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