‘Squad’ Reps. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., joined by 35 other members of Congress, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Friday demanding that he 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. 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,” the letter states.
The Obama administration halted federal executions in 2015.
The Trump administration later lifted the moratorium in 2019 and moved forward with a slew of federal executions for violent criminals.
The Democrats’ letter claims Trump’s “cruel and heinous practice of executions” ignored the context these criminals’ cases required.
An example cited by the Democrats was that of Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to be executed by the federal government, who was sentenced to death in 2008 by a Missouri jury for the 2004 murder of a pregnant woman.
Montgomery cut the fetus out of the dead woman afterwards and kidnapped it. The baby survived.
Montgomery’s advocates — including the Democrats who signed the letter to Biden — argued Montgomery suffered from severe mental health problems and that she should have been granted clemency.
“Reports indicate that Ms. Montgomery was a woman who faced immeasurable hardship and trauma. She suffered from psychosis, a brain injury, and was a victim of childhood abuse, assault, and sex trafficking,” the letter states. “This was a woman in desperate need of a government that cares for and protects the people among us who have the least. Instead, our system failed her, but we cannot afford to fail the many more like her who are now facing the same fate.”
The Democrats went on to accuse Trump of leaving behind a “legacy” of “carnage and unrestrained violence.”
“Beginning in July of 2020, the Trump administration oversaw a killing spree never before seen in American history. The Trump administration executed 13 people — more than any other previous administration in a century and a half. It is unprecedented for executions to occur during a transition period and even more so by a twice impeached President,” the letter says.
There is nothing unusual about the fact that Trump’s Justice Department allowed federal executions to continue during the transition process, since Trump was still president.
And there is no constitutional amendment or legal precedent that prevents prevents a sitting president from exercising his authority after he is impeached.
Nevertheless, the Democrats claimed Trump intentionally inflicted a “level of pain” that “has never been seen nor felt before” amid “an extraordinary pandemic that has infected many on death row.”
They then suggested that he did all of this because of racism.
“The fact of the matter is that these death sentences are not about justice. They are about who has institutional power and who doesn’t. Like slavery and lynching did before it, the death penalty perpetuates cycles of trauma, violence and state-sanctioned murder in Black and brown communities,” the letter read.