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United States: Joe Biden tackles the death penalty

The US president could ask the Department of Justice to stop scheduling new executions. Before an abolition at the federal level?

Joe Biden is the first sitting president to speak publicly against the death penalty, a sentence still in effect across the Atlantic. Barely installed in the White House, the Democrat would have discussed the possibility of asking the Department of Justice to stop the programming of new executions . 

This information remains confidential, and no official announcement is planned – White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki assured it. If this measure were to be confirmed, it will certainly push supporters of the abolition of the death penalty to lift the pressure they exert on  Joe Biden . But they will quickly want the US president to go further by closing, for example, the death row that belongs to the federal government, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. And why not, that he abolish the death penalty altogether  from  American laws.

The position of the 46th American president contrasts with that of his predecessor. Throughout his tenure, Donald Trump  has been a staunch supporter of capital punishment , and everything has escalated over the past six months. 13 people were thus executed by the federal justice – unheard of in 120 years. The former president even appeared to hasten the executions  as his departure from the White House arrived  . The last execution took place just four days before Joe Biden was inaugurated president. Americans are therefore very aware of the issue.   

A divisive decision

One situation particularly shocked the Americans: it was prisoners suffering from mental illnesses who were executed. It therefore seems natural that Joe Biden wants to return to the practice of the Obama era – the latter had unofficially prohibited executions from 2014. But he did not dare to go all the way, which allowed Donald Trump to enforce sentences. 

Joe Biden could, however, attract the wrath of many Republicans, in favor of capital punishment. And even some members of his own camp might blame him, believing it to be political suicide . Not to mention that this decision would save some controversial criminals, such as Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who  killed nine black parishioners  who attended a small church in South Carolina. It might be difficult for Joe Biden to explain to the families of the victims why the murderer of their loved ones must not die. 

Towards an abolition of the death penalty at the federal level?

Supporters of the death penalty are declining – they now represent only half of Americans. But many still want to keep the possibility of sentencing the perpetrators of terrorist attacks to death – the author of the Boston Marathon bombs, moreover, was found guilty and sentenced to death by his jury. Another court commuted the sentence – but the Trump administration has appealed. The Biden administration will soon have to decide whether to pursue this appeal, or whether to accept this sentencing change. 

The abolition of the death penalty at the federal level is in any case a campaign promise of candidate Biden. He didn’t give a lot of details though, remaining very factual. Presumably he is feeling a little guilty and could reallyunravel the laws around the death penalty – to which he nevertheless contributed as a senator. In 1994, it was he who proposed to expand the range of federal crimes punishable by capital punishment. Supporters of ending the death penalty know he has an Achilles heel and they are unlikely to let go until they get a guarantee. 

Source : RTL

Par Jules Bercy

A writer a blogger passionate about science, history politics, the general knowledge of our planet and the Universe...

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