Tell Congress: Abolish the Federal Death Penalty

The United States Congress

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After a 17 year hiatus, the U.S. Department of Justice has carried out seven executions since July 2020 - an unprecedented pace - with at least three more on the way. These make president Trump the most-executing president since the 1950's. To resume federal executions once again, especially at this time and at this rate during a global pandemic, is an affront to the progress this country has made in eliminating the death penalty state-by-state and bringing the United States in-line with international human rights standards.

NEW EXECUTION DATES HAVE BEEN SET: November 19th of Orlando Hall, December 8th of Lisa Montgomery and December 10th of Brandon Bernard.

If any one of these are carried out, in just a handful of months, federal executions under Trump will surpass President Truman's 7 in his entire two terms in office, and tie Eisenhower's 8 executions over his eight years.

Now comes renewed evidence of the absolutely undeniable systemic racism pervasive in the U.S. capital punishment system at the state and federal levels.

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. Two more were killed on August 26 & 28, and another two federal executions were killed on September 22 and 24. More dates in 2020 have already been announced (Nov. 19, Dec. 8 and Dec. 10).

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.

Lastly, on August 26, 2020, the U.S. Government executed Lezmond Mitchell, the only American Indian on the federal Death Row. The U.S. government found a way to circumvent tribal agreements in order to do so, adding one more reason for Congress to end federal executions immediately.

Action Steps:

Please join us in asking congress to take the following steps:

  • Speak out against any federal executions which may be scheduled by the Attorney General;
  • Address pervasive and systemic racism in the criminal legal system by ending the federal death penalty;
  • Remove the power of the president to use executions for his own political purposes by passing H.R. 4052, legislation to end the federal death penalty and prohibit any further federal executions;
  • 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, 2020;
  • Close the legal loophole that allowed the federal government to override the Navajo Nation's stated desire that Lezmond Mitchell not face execution.

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:

Orlando Hall is scheduled to be executed on November 19, 2020 in revenge for his participation in the 1994 murder of Lisa Rene. It was an awful crime, made more awful now by the disparities in how our government is responding. Orlando Hall is one of five co-defendants in the case. Three testified against him in exchange for lesser sentences and they are already free. Another's death sentence was invalidated due to intellectual disability. Racism played a strong role in securing this death sentence, and this case provides yet one more example of unnecessary federal overreach in criminal prosecution. Read a thorough run-down on the Orlando Hall case here.

Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, is scheduled to be executed on December 8, 2020 in revenge for the 2007 kidnapping and killing of Bobbie Jo Stinnett. Montgomery suffers from severe mental illness and the devastating impacts of trauma and abuse she suffered as a child, including being sexually trafficked. Lisa was also represented at trial by an incompetent lawyer who has the dubious distinction of having more clients on federal death row than any other attorney.  Read more about Lisa's case here. Executing Lisa Montgomery would be a profound injustice.

Brandon Bernard is scheduled to be executed on December 10, 2020 in revenge for the carjacking and murder of an Todd and Stacie Bagley. A majority of the surviving trial jurors no longer want that death verdict carried out, and the government is now known to have concealed from those jurors vital information that likely would have persuaded them to spare Brandon's life in the first place. Just 18 years old at the time of the crime, he was described to the jury as a “continuing threat to society” despite his lack of any previous record of violence. Read a statement from his legal team.

This section will be updated if/when new execution dates are scheduled.
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To: The United States Congress
From: Judy Morris

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. Two more took place August 26 & 28, and two more federal executions took place on September 22 & 24, 2020.​ More dates in 2020 have already been announced: November 19, December 8 and December 10.

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. The executions in August took place during the week of the Republican National Convention. 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 pass H.R. 4052, legislation to abolish the federal death penalty in the United States. 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:

* Speak out against any federal executions which may be scheduled by the Attorney General;
* Address pervasive and systemic racism in the criminal legal system by ending the federal death penalty;
* Remove the power of the president to use executions for his own political purposes by passing legislation to end the federal death penalty and prohibit any further federal executions;
* 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, 2020;
* Close the legal loophole that allowed the federal government to override the Navajo Nation's stated desire that Lezmond Mitchell not face execution.

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.