Tell Congress: Abolish the Federal Death Penalty

The United States Congress

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The federal death penalty is being used as a political tool by the Trump Administration and the campaign to re-elect Donald Trump. The administration is ignoring the law, ignoring compelling issues which demand executive clemency, ignoring the danger of executing during the pandemic, and even ignoring the families of victims in several cases who adamantly oppose the execution of the person convicted of killing their loved ones. For this reason, petitioning the President has proven to be a waste of time.

Executions do not keep society any safer from dangerous offenders than incarceration. We can do much better for the families of murder victims than the hollow promise of a possible execution decades in the future.

We are urging Congress to abolish the federal death penalty.

Background:

[Case information and links for individual prisoners with pending execution dates is below.]

In July, 2019 the Trump Administration announced its intent to resume federal executions, setting three execution dates in December 2019 and two more in January, 2020. Appeals postponed those executions for months, however three federal death row prisoners were executed on July 14, July 16, and July 17, 2020. These problematic executions were the first to be conducted by the federal government since 2003. Another four federal executions are scheduled for August 26 and 28, and September 22 and 24, 2020.

Additionally, responding to a rash of mass shootings, the Trump Administration announced in 2019 that it will push for expedited executions for mass shooters who happen to survive their terror attacks. The president has also called for speeding up executions in cases of drug kingpins and for the murder of law enforcement officers. Donald Trump has long used the death penalty as a political tool.

Many problems exist with federal, military and state death penalty laws. These issues are explored in great detail, here. Death Penalty Action believes the death penalty is not necessary to be safe from dangerous offenders or to hold them accountable. In an era where support for capital punishment is waning and states are abolishing the punishment, calling for more executions is political rhetoric intended to win support from particular voting blocks.

Most alarming, evidence came to light after the July 14, 2020 execution of Daniel Lee that the campaign to reelect Donald Trump has guided the strategy and timing of this spate of federal executions. Read about this in the Terre Haute Tribune Star report. Further evidence is currently being developed.

Action Steps:

When the dates were first announced in July, 2019, Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced H.R. 4052, and Rep Rep. Adriano Espaillat introduced H.R. 4022, legislation to abolish the federal death penalty. Please join us in asking congress to support these bills by signing this petition and encouraging Congress to:

  • Investigate the Trump reelection campaign's scripting of federal executions and address any ethics violations or violations of the law, if found;
  • Investigate the conduct of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons in light of troubling facts raising questions about the legality and constitutionality of the executions conducted on July 14, 16 and 17, 2020.
  • Speak out against the upcoming federal executions on August 26 & 28, and September 22 & 24, 2020;
  • Remove the power of the president to use executions for his own political purposes by passing H.R. 4052, H.R. 4022, or any other bill which would end the federal death penalty.

Add your name to the petition to tell Congress and send a signal to the administration: The death penalty is not an effective tool to stop crime. Government makes mistakes, the criminal justice system is fraught with disparity and unfairness, prison workers should not be forced to take on the burden of killing defenseless prisoners once let alone at the rapid pace of the current federal execution schedule, and it is a cruel hoax to suggest that executions provide healing to murder victim family members.

NOTE: The information in this background and the asks within the deliverable petition language may be adjusted from time to time to keep them current as to information presented and appropriateness of requests being made. Petition signatures will be regularly submitted to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, and may also be carried over to the next term of congress or used in support of similar legislation in keeping with the spirit of this petition.


THE NEXT EXECUTIONS:

Besides the use of the federal death penalty being an affront to human rights and criminal justice, there are other factors surrounding each case:

Lezmond Mitchell is a 37-year-old Navajo man convicted of murdering Alyce Slim and Tiffany Lee, two Navajo people on Navajo reservation land in 2001. The Navajo Nation has consistently maintained its position against capital punishment generally and as applied to Mitchell. This case represents the only time in the history of modern capital punishment that the United States Government has sought the death penalty over the objection of a Native American tribe when the criminal conduct in question was committed on tribal land. More information about this case is here. A legal explainer is here.

Keith Nelson, scheduled for execution on August 28 for the murder of Pamela Butler - "Keith Nelson was sentenced to death after a trial plagued by ineffective counsel that committed crucial errors and failed to conduct even the most basic investigation. Because of his counsel's deficient performance, the jury never heard key evidence about the significant trauma and extreme neglect Mr. Nelson experienced as child, including significant brain damage suffered as a newborn, repeated childhood sexual and physical abuse, and a multigenerational family history marked with severe mental illness. Mr. Nelson's death sentence is the result of a proceeding that denied him constitutionally guaranteed protections and reveals another deep flaw in the federal death penalty system."
- Dale Baich, attorney for Keith Nelson
- June 15, 2020

More information about this case is here.

Executions have now also been scheduled on September 22 & 24. Case specifics will be updated shortly.

Sponsored by

To: The United States Congress
From: [Your Name]

After a failed attempt in 2019, the Trump Administration resumed federal executions after a 17 year hiatus, on July 14, July 16, and July 17. Four more executions are scheduled on August 26 & 28, and September 22 & 24, 2020.​

Following the July 14th, 2020 execution of Daniel Lee, the campaign to re-elect the president e-mailed it's supporters to tout Donald Trump's toughness and challenge his opponent to justify opposition to capital punishment. There can now be no doubt that the timing of this spate of executions is political in motivation. This cannot be allowed and should be investigated.

We are writing to urge you to abolish the federal death penalty in the United States, by supporting H.R. 4052 and/or H.R. 4022. Additionally, please help us urge the Attorney General to withdraw any pending federal execution dates and find ways to encourage the President to commute all federal death sentences to a lesser sentence. (In most cases the only currently available option may be life in prison with no possibility of parole.) Specifically:

* Investigate the Trump reelection campaign's scripting of federal executions and address any ethics violations or violations of the law, if found;
* Investigate the conduct of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons in light of troubling facts raising questions about the legality and constitutionality​ of the executions conducted on July 14, 16 and 17, 2020.
* Speak out against the upcoming federal executions on August 26 & 28, and September 22 & 24, 2020;
* Remove the power of the president to use executions for his own political purposes by passing H.R. 4052, H.R. 4022, or any other bill which would end the federal death penalty.

Our nation is strong enough and smart enough that it can hold dangerous offenders accountable and be safe from them without executions. We do that every day in the vast majority of homicide cases. The death penalty is not an effective tool to stop crime. We know that:
* Government makes mistakes;
* The criminal legal system is fraught with disparity and unfairness;
* Prison workers should not be forced to take on the burden of killing defenseless prisoners once, let alone at the rapid pace of the recent federal execution schedule; * It is a cruel hoax to suggest that executions provide healing to murder victim family members. We can and must do better for the families left behind in the wake of violence.

Thank you for your time and attention to this serious matter.