Published on: Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A group of Senate Democrats on Monday urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to stop seeking federal executions, writing in a letter that "it's time to end the federal death penalty" (article available here).

The 17 lawmakers, led by Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Cory Booker of New Jersey, asked Garland to withdraw all pending death notices and forbid issuing new death notices while the Department of Justice reviews its policies on capital punishment.

"There are serious concerns about arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty, its disparate impact on people of color, and the alarming number of exonerations in capital cases," the senators wrote. "These concerns justify not only a review of the procedures for carrying out the death penalty, but also support halting its use — including prohibiting federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty — during the review process."

Four House Democrats penned a Monday, with House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and his colleagues encouraging Garland to “halt all participation in the capital punishment system” by no longer pursuing the death penalty.

Garland last month announced a halt to the federal death penalty and ordered the DOJ to conduct a review of how the government carries out federal executions.  The DOJ has not scheduled any new federal executions since President Joe Biden took office. Currently, there are 46 people on federal death row.