Pressley Leads Lawmakers in Calling on President-Elect Biden to End Death Penalty on First Day in Office

December 15, 2020
Press Release
Biden Must End the Killing Spree, Sign Executive Order to Halt All Federal Executions and Prohibit His Department of Justice from Seeking Death Sentences

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) 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. The Congresswoman’s letter comes as the Trump Administration continues its killing spree, executing more people in six months than the total number executed over the previous six decades.

“Your historic election with record turnout represents a national mandate to make meaningful progress in reforming our unjust and inhumane criminal legal system,” wrote the lawmakers. “Ending the barbaric practice of government-sanctioned murder is a commonsense step that you can and must take to save lives.”

Capital punishment is unjust, racist and defective. The United States stands alone among its peers in executing its own citizens, a barbaric punishment that denies the dignity and humanity of all people and is disproportionately applied to people who are Black, Latinx, and poor. For example, Black people make up less than 13 percent of the nation’s population while accounting for more than 42 percent of those on death row. A nationwide study found that at least 1 in 25 people sentenced to death are innocent, while research has shown that capital punishment does not deter crime.

In their letter, the lawmakers called on President-Elect Biden to affirm his commitment to eliminating the death penalty—as laid out in his criminal justice reform plan—by ending it through executive action on Day 1 of his administration. The lawmakers also made clear that in the 117th Congress, they will continue to work to advance H.R. 4052, Congresswoman Pressley’s legislation to permanently abolish the death penalty and require the resentencing of those currently sentenced to death, and use their oversight authority to investigate the use of lethal injection drugs and its violation of the Eighth Amendment.

“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,” the lawmakers continued. “Each of these elements are critical to help prevent greater harm and further loss of life. While eliminating the death penalty will not fix our broken criminal legal system, it is a significant step toward progress.”

Joining Congresswoman Pressley in sending the letter are Representatives Peter Welch (VT-At-Large), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Nydia M. Velazquez (NY-07), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Adam Smith (WA-09), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (IL-04), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Joseph P. Kennedy, III (MA-04), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Donald S. Beyer Jr. (VA-08), David N. Cicilline (RI-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), Katherine M. Clark (MA-05), David Trone (MD-08), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-05), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Andy Levin (MI-09), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Ro Khanna (CA-17), James P McGovern (MA-02) and Joyce Beatty (OH-03), along with Representatives-Elect Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Mondaire Jones (NY-17) and Cori Bush (MO-01).

Last month, Congresswoman Pressley, along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), wrote to Attorney General Bill Barr calling for a halt to all scheduled federal executions in the remaining days of the Trump Administration.

In July 2019, Congresswoman Pressley introduced H.R. 4052, legislation to prohibit the use of the death penalty at the federal level and require re-sentencing of those currently on death row.

In August 2019, Congresswoman Pressley, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee, sent letters to the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) Hugh J. Hurwitz and Attorney General William P. Barr seeking documents and information regarding the Administration’s July 25, 2019, announcement that the Bureau would resume capital punishment.

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