Biden administration moves to withdraw death penalty requests in seven cases
The Justice Department has moved to withdraw capital punishment requests in seven cases for which the Trump administration previously sought the death penalty under its resumption of federal executions.
The cases in which death penalty requests were vacated include that of an Orlando, Fla., man charged with kidnapping and fatally shooting his estranged wife, as well as one for a Syracuse, N.Y., man indicted in the armed robbery of a restaurant and the murder of two employees, according to The New York Times.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) under former President Trump had pushed federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty if they won convictions in the seven cases. The agency under Attorney General Merrick Garland, however, has pulled the requests in recent court filings, the Times noted.
Earlier this month, Garland made the long awaited move of putting back in place a pause on federal executions after the Trump administration had ended a nearly two-decade halt on the practice.
The move reported Thursday by the Times, which was not widely advertised by the DOJ, goes a step further by removing the death penalty in cases that are still being prosecuted.
There were 13 federal executions carried out under the Trump administration, with some occurring just days before he left the Oval Office.
It was not clear if the decision to remove death penalty applications in the seven cases was influenced by the execution moratorium, or if it is part of a broader effort under the Biden administration to move toward officially ending the death penalty federally.
The DOJ has yet to publicly release any policy changes beyond the moratorium, nor has it provided details on how or when the government may seek the death penalty.
The department said in a statement to the Times that Garland, who has the power to make the final decision on whether to seek the death penalty in federal cases, has not personally authorized an execution in any cases since taking office in March.
Garland in his statement announcing the moratorium this month said the death penalty tends to have a disproportionate impact on people of color, adding that the DOJ “must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely.”
The Hill has reached out to the DOJ for additional information.
Despite the moves by the DOJ and President Biden’s calls to end capital punishment, opponents of the death penalty expressed frustration last month when the Biden administration requested that the Supreme Court reinstate the death penalty against Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev had his death sentence vacated last year after a federal appeals court said the trial court failed to effectively screen jurors for possible bias and that it did not include evidence showing the defendant was influenced by his older brother.