Dying penalty opponent Biden to hunt halt of federal executions


WASHINGTON (AP) — US President-elect Joe Biden is in opposition to the demise penalty and can work to finish its use, his spokesman mentioned Saturday, because the Justice Division scheduled three extra federal executions earlier than the January 20 inauguration, together with two shortly earlier than he’s set to take workplace.

The Bureau of Prisons on Thursday carried out the eighth federal execution this yr, after a 17-year hiatus, and it’s more likely to enhance stress on Biden to determine whether or not his administration would proceed to schedule executions as soon as he’s sworn in. Advocacy teams have known as on the Trump administration to pause all executions till Biden takes workplace.

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Biden “opposes the demise penalty now and sooner or later,” press secretary TJ Ducklo mentioned. He didn’t say whether or not executions can be paused instantly as soon as Biden takes workplace.

Federal executions resumed this yr regardless of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed greater than 250,000 individuals and is raging contained in the nation’s jail programs. This yr, the Justice Division has put to demise extra individuals than throughout the earlier half-century, regardless of waning public help from each Democrats and Republicans for its use.

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US President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Picture/Andrew Harnik)

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In a court docket submitting Friday night time, the division mentioned it was scheduling the executions of Alfred Bourgeois for Dec. 11 and Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs for Jan. 14 and 15. Two different executions had been scheduled for this yr, together with the primary girl set to be executed by the federal authorities in about six many years. However on Thursday, a federal decide dominated that execution couldn’t proceed earlier than the tip of the yr.

Prosecutors say Bourgeois tortured, sexually molested, after which beat to demise his 2 1/2-year-old daughter to demise.

Johnson was one among three crack cocaine sellers convicted in a string of murders. Prosecutors mentioned he killed seven individuals in in an try and develop the territory of a Richmond, Virginia, gang and silence informants. His co-defendants, members of similar drug gang, are additionally on demise row.

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Johnson’s attorneys argue their consumer is intellectually disabled, and thus it will be unconstitutional to place him to demise. The Supreme Court docket has held that it’s illegal to execute an individual who’s of such a low intelligence that they will’t perform in society.

His attorneys say “no jury or court docket has ever listened to the proof at a listening to to determine if he has mental incapacity.”

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FILE – On this Aug. 28, 2020, file picture, the federal jail complicated in Terre Haute, Indiana (AP Picture/Michael Conroy, File)

Higgs was convicted of ordering the 1996 murders of three ladies at a federal wildlife middle close to Beltsville, Maryland. Prosecutors say Higgs and two others kidnapped the ladies after Higgs grew to become enraged as a result of one of many ladies rebuffed his advances at celebration.

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Higgs’ lawyer, Sean Nolan, mentioned his consumer didn’t kill anybody, had ineffective attorneys and didn’t deserve the demise penalty. Higgs’ co-defendant, who prosecutors mentioned carried out the killings, was not sentenced to demise and Nolan mentioned it’s “arbitrary and inequitable to punish Mr. Higgs extra severely than the one who dedicated the murders.”

All three males are Black, as have been those that have been not too long ago executed. One upcoming execution has been positioned on maintain, partially as a result of the demise row inmate’s attorneys acquired coronavirus.

When executions resumed this yr, the death-row inmates chosen have been all white. Critics have argued that executing white inmates first was a political calculation in a nation embroiled in racial bias considerations involving the legal justice system.

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A September report by the Washington, D.C.-based Dying Penalty Data Middle mentioned Black individuals stay overrepresented on demise rows, together with federal demise row. The group’s database reveals that 25 of 55 federal demise row inmates (46%) are Black, whereas Blacks make up solely about 13% of the US inhabitants.


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