December 11, 2020

For Further Information:
Virginia Rodino, Press Secretary,
Robert Smith, Deputy Press Secretary,

RELEASE: Abolish the Death Penalty

Lame duck President Donald Trump is rushing through five federal death-penalty executions before he leaves office. Trump’s killing spree breaks a 130-year-old tradition of not executing prisoners during a presidential transition.

In 2019, Trump began resuming executions in federal death penalty cases, which had not been carried out since 2003. With these last five executions, Trump’s federal executions will total 13 since July, the most federal executions in any year since 1896.

Two of the five remaining executions were already carried through on December 10 and 11. Of the five slated for death, three are mentally disabled and four are black men, which fits with the longstanding pattern of who is most likely to be executed by the state. 170 people originally sentenced to the death penalty have been exonerated of their accused crimes since 1973.

President-elect Joe Biden has said nothing in protest of executions. Many of the people now on death row were convicted under some of the 60 new death penalties Biden wrote into the 1994 crime bill. As California Attorney General, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris appealed a 2014 US District Court ruling that said California’s death penalty was unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. Harris won her case and executions resumed. In 2016, Harris denied DNA testing to Kevin Cooper that could exonerate him for murders for which is sentenced to death in California. DNA testing in Cooper’s case was later ordered by Governor Jerry Brown and the study is ongoing.

The death penalty should be abolished in the United States. It is a clear violation of the 8th Amendment’s injunction against cruel and unusual punishment, as Justices Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan argued in the 1972 US Supreme Court decision that temporarily suspended executions.

Of the 195 United Nations states, over 140 nations, including all the Western democracies, don’t have the death penalty. It is time for the US to join the civilized world.


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