Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is poised to introduce a bill to end the death penalty for federal crimes as the Department of Justice indicated this week it would resume executing inmates for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Pressley’s proposal, announced Thursday, would prohibit capital punishment “for any violation of federal law, and for other purposes,” the bill says. The measure would also mandate that any person already on death row be re-sentenced.
“The death penalty has no place in a just society,” the Boston Democrat said in a tweet.
The death penalty has no place in a just society. https://t.co/LiQGwumtGV
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) July 25, 2019
Three people have been executed under the federal death penalty since it was enacted in 1988, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The last execution was in 2003.
On Thursday, the Department of Justice announced Attorney General William Barr ordered that executions be scheduled for five death-row inmates who were all convicted for murdering children.
“The same racist rhetoric coming from the occupant of the White House — who called for the execution of the Exonerated 5 — is what led to this racist, vile policy,” Pressley said in a statement. “It was wrong then and it’s wrong now and I am proud to introduce a bill that completely abolishes the use of capital punishment as a punitive measure. The cruelty is the point — this is by design.”
The executions are expected to take place in December and January.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the president,” Barr said in a statement. “Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.”
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, capital punishment is legal in 25 states, while four states currently have a governor-imposed moratorium. In Massachusetts, the death penalty was abolished in 1984.