Administration

Senate Democrats to Garland: ‘It’s time to end the federal death penalty’

Attorney General Merrick Garland addresses reporters at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, August 5, 2021 to announce an investigation of the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department for civil rights practices.
Greg Nash

Senate Democrats wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday calling on him to effectively end the federal death penalty.

In their letter, 17 Democratic senators voiced their approval of Garland’s decision to issue a moratorium on federal executions while the Department of Justice reviews policies and procedures.

“These are important steps toward ending the injustice of the death penalty. We urge you to take the additional steps of withdrawing all pending death notices, and authorizing no new death notices, while your review proceeds,” the lawmakers wrote.

In June, the Justice Department announced that Garland had issued a moratorium on federal executions.

“The Department of Justice 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,” Garland said at the time. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

The senators cited multiple issues in executions to support their call for abolishing federal executions, including the disparate number of people of color on death row as well as the “alarming” number of exonerations.

They also cited the executions carried out under the Trump administration, writing that they were “alarmed when the previous administration ended the 17-year moratorium on the federal death penalty and executed 13 individuals, more than the total number executed over the previous seven decades.”

“By refusing to seek the death penalty and add more prisoners to death row, you can reduce the risk that a future administration will carry out federal executions at a similar rate,” the Democrats added.

They lawmakers expressed hope that the White House will back their efforts to end federal executions, noting that Vice President Harris had co-sponsored a bill that would have eliminated the death penalty when she was a senator.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ed Markey (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.) and Tina Smith (Minn.), as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats.

Tags Alex Padilla Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Capital punishment Capital punishment in the United States Chris Coons Chris Van Hollen Cory Booker Dick Durbin Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Federal government of the United States Jeff Merkley Jon Ossoff Mazie Hirono Merrick Garland Merrick Garland Patrick Leahy Sherrod Brown Tammy Baldwin Tim Kaine Tina Smith United States Department of Justice

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