Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley led 35 colleagues in sending a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to immediately commute the sentences of everyone on federal death row.
“As members of Congress, we stand ready to work with you on your commitment to rebuilding the dignity of America,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter. “We believe that rebuilding the dignity of America requires that we recommit ourselves to the tradition of due process, mercy, and judicial clemency when it comes to matters related to the criminal legal system. For this reason, we urge you to immediately commute the sentences of all those on death row.”
In 2015, the Obama administration halted federal executions by placing a moratorium on the federal death penalty. In 2019, the Trump administration abruptly announced it was reversing the moratorium and moving forward with the first execution in 17 years. On the same day, Rep. Pressley introduced legislation to abolish the federal death penalty and resentence all individuals on death row. In their letter today, the lawmakers call on Biden to go further than the Obama administration and commute every sentence on death row, ensuring no future president could do what the Trump administration has done in resuming federal executions.
“We appreciate your vocal opposition to the death penalty and urge you to take swift, decisive action. After referring to the death penalty as ‘deeply troubling,’ President Obama halted federal executions and commuted the sentences of two federal prisoners on death row,” the lawmakers continued. “However, the Obama administration’s reticence to commute more death sentences has allowed the Trump administration to reverse course and pursue a horrifying killing spree over the final seven months of his presidency. Commuting the death sentences of those on death row and ensuring that each person is provided with an adequate and unique re-sentencing process is a crucial first step in remedying this grave injustice.”
The letter is co-signed by 35 House Democrats.