Democratic Legislators Introduce Death Penalty Repeal Bills, Urge President Biden to Commute Federal Death Sentences

Posted: January 20, 2021 Democratic members of the U.S. House and Senate have called on incoming President Joe Biden (pictured) to take quick action on his campaign pledge to end the federal death penalty. Legislators introduced three bills to abolish the federal death penalty and urged the President to issue executive orders to halt federal executions and commute the death sentences of those on federal death row.

Citing the more than 170 people exonerated from U.S. death rows since capital punishment resumed in the U.S. in the 1970s, Biden’s official campaign platform on criminal justice advocated repealing the federal death penalty. With his inauguration, he became the first president to have been elected after supporting doing away with capital punishment. “Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time,” the website said, “Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.”

Senator Richard Durbin (D – Illinois), the incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Representatives Adriano Espaillat (D – New York) and Ayanna Pressley (D – Massachusetts), all of whom had introduced death-penalty abolition bills in prior sessions of Congress, announced that they were again advancing bills to end the federal death penalty. Espaillat’s bill, the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2021, was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on January 4, 2021. Pressley’s repeal bill was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee on January 11. Durbin, whose bill is co-sponsored by every Democratic Senator who was a candidate for president in 2020, planned to reintroduce the bill when the Senate convened for 2021.



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