Rep. Pressley’s Statement on DOJ Seeking Death Penalty

June 15, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) issued the following statement on the request by the Department of Justice for the Supreme Court to reinstate the death penalty in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case.

“State-sanctioned murder is not justice, no matter how heinous the crime. President Biden has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the death penalty and has the historic opportunity to finally bring an end to this inhumane, racist and flawed practice. I am deeply disappointed that the Department of Justice would move in conflict with the President’s stated policy position and abandon promises made to voters.

“Under the Trump Administration, we saw this arcane and cruel policy weaponized, resulting in an unprecedented execution spree. The Boston Marathon bombing was a devasting day in our city and I am deeply committed to accountability and healing for the families robbed of a loved one and our community writ large. But let me be clear – no just nation should be in the business of executing people.

“Since the election, I have been calling on President Biden to take swift executive action to halt all federal executions and resentence those on death row. Today, I reiterate that call with sustained urgency and urge Congress to pass my bill (HR 262) with Senator Durbin to end the death penalty in America outright.”

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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