Activists expected President Joe Biden to take immediate action against the death penalty as the first sitting president to oppose capital punishment, but he has been silent on the issue, the Associated Press reported.
Biden previously said he wanted to see the death penalty eliminated, in stark contrast to his predecessor, former President Donald Trump who executed 13 inmates from July 2020 to January 2021 before he left office. The executions began after the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Trump administration’s move to restart executions of inmates on death row.
Activists and lawmakers have pressured Biden to take a stance against capital punishment for the nearly 50 federal inmates currently sitting on death row, according to the Associated Press. But Biden has not taken a stance on new legislation to abolish the federal death penalty or reversed Trump policies that resumed federal executions, since becoming president.
“Biden’s lack of action is unconscionable,” said Ashley Kincaid Eve, a lawyer and activist who protested outside the Terre Haute, Indiana, prison where the federal inmates were executed, the AP reported. “This is the easiest campaign promise to keep, and the fact he refuses to keep it … is political cowardice.”
Department of Justice (DOJ) officials urged the Supreme Court Tuesday to reinstate the death penalty for the Boston Bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev. The DOJ has independence regarding such decisions,” said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, Reuters reported, signaling that its actions are separate from the Biden administration.
Activists said they’ve spoken with officials and gotten assurance from the Biden administration that it plans to support legislation abolishing the federal death penalty, Abe Bonowitz, director of the anti-capital punishment group Death Penalty Action told the AP.
Inmates don’t think they will be executed with Biden as president, death row inmate Rejon Taylor told the AP. “I won’t say that skepticism has settled in, but I will say that most no longer feel that immediate action will happen,” Taylor said.
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