Booker, Durbin and Leahy introduce bill to ban death penalty

Booker, Durbin and Leahy introduce bill to ban death penalty
© Anna Moneymaker

Senate Democrats introduced a bill to ban the death penalty less than a week after the Justice Department announced it would resume federal capital punishment for the first time in nearly two decades. 

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress headed toward unemployment showdown Senate to try to pass fix for Paycheck Protection Program Thursday MORE (Ill.), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe House impeachment inquiry loses another round — and yes, that's still going on Hillicon Valley: Trump threatens Michigan, Nevada over mail-in voting | Officials call for broadband expansion during pandemic | Democrats call for investigation into Uber-Grubhub deal Democratic senators call on regulators to investigate potential Uber-Grubhub deal MORE (Vt.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Booker introduces bill to create 'DemocracyCorps' for elections On The Money: GOP senators heed Fed chair's call for more relief | Rollout of new anti-redlining laws spark confusion in banking industry | Nearly half of American households have lost employment income during pandemic MORE (N.J.), all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the bill Wednesday. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Coal company sues EPA over power plant pollution regulation | Automakers fight effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards | EPA watchdog may probe agency's response to California water issues MORE (D-Calif.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoConservative group launches campaign accusing Democrats of hypocrisy on Kavanuagh, Biden Hillicon Valley: Commerce announces new Huawei restrictions | Russian meddling report round five | Google's ad business in spotlight Democratic senators urge Facebook to curb coronavirus misinformation in other languages MORE (D-Hawaii), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Overnight Defense: National Guard chief negative in third coronavirus test | Pentagon IG probing Navy's coronavirus response | Democrats blast use of Russia deterrence funds on border wall Overnight Defense: Navy secretary nominee: Service in 'rough waters' after 'failure of leadership'| Senate fails to override Trump's Iran war powers veto| Top Armed Services Republican expects to address Pentagon border wall funds in defense policy bill MORE (D-Va.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Congress must fill the leadership void The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump spotted wearing a face mask MORE (D-Minn.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Hawaii primary Warren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden Julián Castro to become senior advisor for Voto Latino MORE (I-Vt.) and Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats slam Trump for threatening to hold Michigan funds Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections Coronavirus drives record number of complaints to consumer bureau MORE (D-Hawaii).

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Booker, Harris, Klobuchar and Sanders are all seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOvernight Defense: Pentagon memo warns pandemic could go until summer 2021 | Watchdog finds Taliban violence is high despite US deal | Progressive Dems demand defense cuts Progressives demand defense budget cuts amid coronavirus pandemic The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump takes his 'ready to reopen' mantra on the road MORE (D-Mass.) introduced companion legislation in the House last week. 

“Try as we might, we cannot escape the fact that the death penalty in America is disproportionately imposed on minorities and poor people,” said Durbin. “I am also struck by the revelations we have had over the last few decades that led to dozens of exonerations of innocent prisoners who had languished for years on death row, awaiting execution for crimes they didn’t commit."

“The death penalty fails by any objective measure. It is too final and too prone to error. It fails as a deterrent. It is racially biased. And it is beneath us as a nation,” added Leahy.

Several states currently bar capital punishment or have suspended the practice due to past wrongful convictions brought to light by groups such as the Innocence Project, which have secured the release of several death-row inmates. The total number of executions has declined over the last decade, in part over concerns of its racial implications, with only three federal executions having taken place since 1988. 

The Senate legislation is in direct response to the Justice Department’s announcement that it will resume the federal use of the death penalty, which specifically cited five prisoners convicted of murdering children.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump sides with religious leaders in fight against governors Senate Democrats call on Trump administration to let Planned Parenthood centers keep PPP loans Senate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans MORE said in a statement Thursday. 

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

The death penalty has been abolished in about 70 percent of countries, including in most democratic, industrialized nations similar to the U.S.