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July 2, 2021

Statement from Rep. Pressley on DOJ Moratorium on Federal Executions

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) moratorium on federal executions.

“The death penalty is a cruel, unjust and inhumane punishment that has no place in our society.

“Since December, we’ve been calling on President Biden to make good on his campaign promise to use executive action to halt federal executions. The federal death penalty was used to carry out an unprecedented execution spree in the final months of the Trump administration and has been disproportionately used to execute Black and brown Americans.

“During my recent visit to the White House, President Biden gave me his word that no person in America would be executed by the federal government on his watch. Today, the Department of Justice took welcome and long overdue action. I applaud the Biden Administration for being responsive to our calls and to the generations of activists organizing to abolish the death penalty.

“Our work to end state-sanctioned murder in America is urgent.

“We continue to call on President Biden to commute the sentences of those on death row and ensure a fair resentencing process, direct DOJ prosecutors to no longer seek the death penalty and dismantle the death row facility at Terre Haute. We call on Congress to pass my bill with Senator Durbin to fully end the federal death penalty, codify its abolishment into law, and prevent its reinstatement by future administrations.”

“We’re not backing down in this fight and I look forward to working with the Administration to build on this action today. A more just world is possible.” 

Congresswoman Pressley is the lead sponsor of H.R. 262, the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021, legislation to prohibit the use of the death penalty at the federal level and require re-sentencing of those currently on death row. The legislation is sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The pair first introduced  the bill in July 2019, on the same day the Trump Administration announced it would resume executions.

In January 2021, Congresswoman Pressley and Congresswoman Cori Bush (D-MO) led more than 35 of their House colleagues in sending a letter to President Biden calling on him to commute the sentences of every person on federal death row.

Later that month, Congresswoman Pressley and Reps. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) and Robin Kelly (IL-02) wrote to then-Attorney General-nominee Judge Merrick B. Garland urging him to prioritize President Biden’s commitment to working with Congress to end the federal death penalty and incentivizing states to end capital punishment across the country.

In December 2020, Congresswoman Pressley led 41 of her House colleagues and three Representatives-Elect on a letter calling on President-Elect Joe Biden to end the use of the federal death penalty on his first day in office. 

In November 2020, Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Durbin, along with Senators Patrick Leahy and Cory Booker, wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr calling for a halt on all scheduled federal executions during the presidential transition period.


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