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January 17, 2024

Pressley, Durbin Statement on DOJ Seeking Death Penalty for Buffalo Supermarket Shooter

Announcement Marks First Time DOJ Has Sought The Death Penalty in a New Case, In Conflict With President’s Commitment

Earlier This Year, Durbin, Pressley Reintroduced Bicameral Bill to End Federal Death Penalty

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement on the Department of Justice’s decision to seek the execution of Payton Gendron, who committed the heinous, racially-motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in 2022:

“Make no mistake: the acts committed by this individual are morally reprehensible. Ten families continue to mourn their loved ones who were murdered on that horrific day in a hate-fueled act of domestic terrorism. In memory of those who lost their lives, we must advance true accountability and healing, and continue to fight against the surge of white supremacy in our country and its stain on our history. However, state-sanctioned killing is not justice.

“President Biden made a promise to the American people to stop this barbaric practice. The Justice Department should follow the President’s lead and reverse its position seeking the death penalty in this case. And Congress must pass our bill to end this deeply flawed and inhumane form of punishment once and for all.”

Last year, Durbin and Pressley reintroduced the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2023, bicameral legislation to prohibit the use of the death penalty at the federal level and require re-sentencing of those currently on death row.

Rep. Pressley has been an outspoken advocate for abolishing the federal death penalty, and her legislation with Senator Durbin is informed by her People’s Justice Guarantee, a comprehensive, decarceration-focused resolution that outlines a framework for a fair, equitable and just legal system.

  • In January 2023, Rep. Pressley and Senator Durbin submitted a comment letter in response to a Department of Justice (DOJ) Request for Information (RFI) regarding the regulations governing federal executions. 
  • In March 2022, Rep. Pressley issued a statement condemning the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the death penalty in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case, urging passage of the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act, and calling on President Biden to take executive action to halt federal executions, commute the sentences of those on death row, and more.
  • In May 2021, Rep. Pressley announced that the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act now has the support of over 90 Members of Congress and 265 national and grassroots organizations across the country.
  • 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.
  • In July 2019, Rep. Pressley and Senator Dick Durbin introduced bicameral 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 was reintroduced in 2021 and 2023.