Civil rights teams write to ask Biden to finish the federal dying penalty for good
Human rights and civil rights groups are therefore giving the administration a public push: it is not enough to stop the wave of executions of the Trump team. “”[I]If there is one thing that has been made clear in the final months of the Trump presidency, it is the dire consequences of a simple informal moratorium on the federal death penalty, ”argue the signatories.
In the letter, the groups point out specific actions that Biden could take immediately without Congress. Biden could reintroduce the moratorium, but could also revoke approval for all pending death penalty proceedings and instruct federal prosecutors not to apply for the death penalty in their future cases. He could “dismantle” the federal death chamber that is used for each of the executions. He was able to repeal Barr’s changes to the regulations that allowed lethal injections to be performed despite significant concerns about the drugs used.
However, the most important step Biden could take would be to use his new presidential powers to convert or reduce the sentences of those currently on death row, thereby zeroing the federal death row population and discussing the other reforms become. Any true end to the federal death penalty requires legislation.
That legislation may not be far away. It is now known that the death penalty is initially not an effective deterrent and that executions are more expensive to carry out than life imprisonment, which does not even give the government any financial advantage. A number of botched executions have shown that the “humane” nature of lethal injection is fraudulent. And apart from everything else, dozens of death row inmates have now proven their innocence after DNA testing and public oversight came into effect. It is undeniable that the United States executed innocent and guilty prisoners – a price no allegedly civilized nation should bear.
We probably can’t read too much into the Biden team, which is not yet announcing plans to reform the death penalty. The Republicans have persistently blocked Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland, who will not receive a Senate confirmation hearing until February 22nd. Biden’s team may be trying to deliver on its election promises with a comprehensive reform strategy. And there are no upcoming executions – although those on death row and their legal teams will oppose any assumption that the current delay is free.
In these particular months, there may be a new reason to get rid of the death penalty from government instruments that are as compelling as any. It is a worthwhile undertaking to remove a weapon generally preferred by authoritarian governments against their supposed opponents or scapegoats from the federal toolkit, if one just wants to distinguish once more between a modern, democratic government and an American subculture that is increasingly divorced from violence as political Trump is in love. It used to be a more academic concern. Immediately after the government is overthrown, this seems to be less the case.
Any government sponsored execution, no matter how allegedly justified, is inherently political in nature and by definition. It is the state that carries out the execution and the state that has established the rules of who should be killed in which order. As we have seen, whoever “deserves” to die is shifting with political and cultural winds, but with the rise of authoritarian power in a nation invariably shifting to include the authoritarian’s own goals. And we have seen the glitz here, too, when the “moderate” right became increasingly intolerant of policing the violent far-right party, steadily shifting resources to pursuing anti-war protesters or the illusory demons of Antifa instead.
Dark as the thought is, further distancing the government from any supposed authority to execute anyone, even the vilest criminal, could be a pragmatic measure when the nation grapples with a still escalating fascist movement that includes both members of the Both the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives belong to the Senate as its allies. It is of course not as if authoritarian or rebellious people would stick to such ideas. But it would only add a fraction of the distance from A to B, and we could use as many inches as possible there.
In the end, however, the death penalty should be abolished as it is incompatible with civilized governance. It’s more expensive, it’s ineffective, and it’s used against the innocent. It fails in all its alleged goals and with its abuse puts new crimes around the government’s neck. We can easily end it and instead permanently imprison the eternally dangerous people with the vast national infrastructure built for these purposes.