Anti-death penalty group to gather in Washington, press Biden to end federal executions

A group facing the death penalty is planning to host a demonstration on Monday in Washington, DC to demand an end to the death penalty for federal inmates.

The Abolitionist Action Committee meeting will call on Congress to pass the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2021, which would end the death penalty at the federal level and require that all 44 federal inmates currently on the death row be met.

The Justice Department under former President Trump resumed federal executions in 2020, ending a 17-year hiatus.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, the main sponsor of the bill, said last week that the 13 federal inmates executed under the Trump administration are more than the total number killed by the 11 previous presidents in the last 70 years. year.

“This included the execution of people with intellectual disabilities – it is a serious injustice that highlighted the fundamental immorality of the death penalty,” the Illinois Democrat said.

Mr. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, also took a stab at the Supreme Court, saying the “Conservative majority refused to ensure that legal challenges from individuals on the death row were taken into account.”

“Carrying out these executions during the pandemic unnecessarily endangered even more lives,” he added.

His bill currently has 19 co-sponsors, and its accompanying in-house legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Massachusetts Democrat, has 78 co-sponsors.

Although President Biden campaigned on promises to end the federal death penalty, he has not yet taken any action. The Abolitionist Action Committee hopes to change that.

The committee’s sponsor, Death Penalty Action, launched an online signature collection for “Abolish & Demolish the Death Penalty”, which as of Friday afternoon has collected 5,408 signatures from the 6,400 wanted.

The petition calls on Mr Biden to reshuffle all federal death sentences and to order the demolition of the Federal Government Execution Chamber, known as the “Death House,” which is housed in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The death penalty “treats people differently based on race, money, politics and geography, rather than the seriousness of the crime,” the petition said.

“We can and must end the death penalty and reuse the cost savings to provide better services to all families of murder victims and other co-victims and a greater effort to prevent murder from occurring at all.”

According to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center, two of the 13 federal prisoners killed during the Trump administration were seriously mentally ill, two had strong evidence of an intellectual disability, and two contracted coronavirus in the weeks leading up to their executions.

The last three federal inmates executed received lethal injections a few days before Mr Biden was inaugurated.

Lisa Montgomery, 52, was executed for strangling a Missouri woman in 2004 and cutting her unborn baby out of her womb. She then tried to give the child out as her own. The baby survived. Montgomery was convicted of federal kidnapping resulting in death.

She was executed on January 13, 2021 and was the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years.

The next day, Corey Johnson, 52, was executed for his involvement in the gang-related killings of 11 people over 45 days in 1992. He was convicted of seven counts of murder to promote continued criminal activity.

Two days later, Dustin John Higgs, 48, was executed for ordering the murder of three women at an animal sanctuary in Maryland in 1996. He was convicted of three counts of premeditated murder, three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of kidnapping with death to follow.

Under the Biden administration, Attorney General Merrick Garland suspended federal executions in June, while the DOJ launched a review of changes to the death penalty policy under Mr. Trump.

The policy changes include the authorization of firing squads, fewer restrictions on lethal injections, and a reduction in the amount of notice given to prisoners prior to their execution.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system not only receives the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Mr. Garland. “This obligation has particular force in death cases.”

Monday’s convention is set to begin at. 10 on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and participants also plan to march to the U.S. Capitol and Hart Senate Office Building.

The event takes place on the 45th anniversary of the first state-ordered execution in the United States after the Supreme Court upheld new death sentences in 1976. Gary Gilmore, convicted of killing Max Jensen and Ben Bushnell, was executed by a Utah shooting force in 1977.

“Every five years, we risk arrest in non-violent civil disobedience on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC to mark the anniversary of the first execution in the modern era,” the committee’s website states.

Eighteen people were arrested at the last demonstration in 2017, according to the committee.

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