Dozens of Democrats urge Biden to quickly end federal death penalty


Dozens of current and incoming congressional members have signed onto a letter penned by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) calling on the next administration to making abolishing the death penalty a priority once President-elect Joe Biden enters office.

In the letter, reported by CNN, Pressley slams the Trump administration for resuming federal executions this year amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and for executing “more people in six months than the total number executed over the previous six decades.”

“The current administration has weaponized capital punishment with callous disregard for human life,” Pressley said.

“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 Terre Haute, and call for the resentencing of people who are currently sentenced to death,” Pressley continued in the letter to Biden.

“Each of these elements are critical to help prevent greater harm and further loss of life,” she added.

According to CNN, 40 current members of Congress and three newly elected lawmakers have joined Pressley’s calls.

The Hill has reached out to Pressley’s office for comment.

Biden has pledged to work to pass legislation to abolish the federal death penalty and provide states with incentives to encourage them to do the same, though the congressional Democrats are pushing for an immediate end to the federal death penalty once he enters office Jan. 20.

News of the letter comes days after the controversial federal execution of Brandon Bernard.

Bernard had been executed by phenobarbital injection on Thursday despite widespread calls from the public and prominent figures like Kim Kardashian demanding the execution be halted.

“He was such a reformed person. So hopeful and positive until the end. More importantly he is sorry, so sorry for the hurt and pain he has caused others,” Kardashian said after his death.

Bernard, 40 at the time of his death, had been 18 when he was involved in the kidnapping and killing of a religious couple in Texas. The couple, who had been from Iowa, had reportedly been placed in the trunk of a car by a group of teenagers and shot by a man named Christopher Vialva. 

Vialva was the first Black man to died by federal execution since the Trump administration resumed the punishment in the summer after 17 years of a hiatus.

Another Black man, Alfred Bourgeois, was also executed last week. According to The Associated Press, three more inmates are scheduled to be executed before Biden takes office. Two of them are also Black men and the other is a white woman.

Last year, Pressley introduced a measure that sought to abolish the death penalty shortly after the Trump administration announced it would be resuming the form of punishment. 

Calls for the move have only increased in light of the Trump administration’s move to press forward with executions even as it continues its transition of power to the next administration.

Tags Ayanna Pressley death penalty Joe Biden Kim Kardashian

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