Harlem Rep. Espaillat, Pressley Urge Department Of Justice To Stop Seeking Death Penalty

August 9, 2021

Today, Representatives Adriano Espaillat

and Ayanna Pressley, along with Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Cori Bush sent a letter to Department of Justice Attorney General Judge Merrick B. Garland.

The letter is urging him to halt all federal participation in the capital punishment system and prohibit Department attorneys from seeking the death penalty.

“It’s simple: the death penalty is unjust, immoral, and racist, and we have a moral obligation to abolish it,” said Congressman Espaillat. “After Trump’s unprecedented killing spree in which he executed 13 Americans, more federal executions than in the last seven decades, it is beyond time for the death penalty to become a part of American history, not remain in America’s present. We see time and again how capital punishment unjustly targets Black and brown Americans, as well as it being arbitrarily levied most against those who cannot afford adequate counsel – this is not justice. Attorney General Garland took action on this injustice by instituting a moratorium on federal executions, but failed to maintain logical consistency by not directing federal prosecutors to stop seeking the death penalty. The Department of Justice should immediately halt capital litigation and stop sentencing people to die.”

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“State-sanctioned murder is not justice, and the death penalty has no place in any society,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I applaud the critical steps the DOJ has taken, responsive to the demands of the coalition working to end the federal death penalty. Now the Biden Administration must strengthen its moratorium on executions by formally directing federal prosecutors to no longer seek the death penalty, commuting the sentences of those on death row, and dismantling the death row facility at Terre Haute. The momentum behind abolishing the death penalty is growing and Attorney General Garland must act.”

“The rush of federal executions led by former Attorney General Barr last year was arbitrary and unprecedented,” said Chairman Nadler. “We have seen how death sentences have been unjustly imposed, racially biased, and executions cruelly administered. While I am grateful that Attorney General Garland has halted federal executions, we ask that he take additional steps by preventing federal prosecutors from seeking death sentences.”

“We must work to build a criminal-legal system that is deeply rooted in a love for humanity, which begins with ending the federal death penalty in our country,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “The death penalty is an inhumane punishment that disproportionately violates the human rights of Black, brown, indigenous, and other marginalized people. I’m proud to join my colleagues Reps. Espaillat and Pressley in continuing to urge this administration to end the death penalty.”

In the letter, the members stated, “Capital punishment is a deeply flawed and inhumane practice that the Department of Justice can and must discontinue. Its known deficiencies, “including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases,” are thoroughly documented. Despite these realities, the death penalty continues to be imposed in an arbitrary and capricious manner […] While the United States Congress considers legislation to abolish the death penalty, which has an unprecedented and growing level of support, the Department of Justice still has a moral obligation to take immediate, decisive action. The Biden-Harris Administration was elected on the promise of abolishing the federal death penalty, and we are committed to using every legislative tool to help fulfill it.”

Click here (to read the letter to Attorney General Garland in its entirety.

Rep. Espaillat and Rep. Pressley have pushed to abolish the federal death penalty since the 116th Congress.

Click here to see Rep. Espaillat press release on death penalty abolition legislation.

Click here to see Rep. Pressley press release on death penalty abolition legislation.

Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the north-west Bronx.

First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress. Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities.

He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves as the Second Vice Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip.

Representative Espaillat also currently serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

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