Joe Biden called for an end to the executions. So why is the Justice Department still seeking his death penalty?

The terror trial against Sayfullo Saipov starts on Monday. Prosecutors say the man plowed a rented truck into Manhattan’s crowded West Side bike path, killing eight and injuring scores of others in an Islamic State-inspired attack.

But it is not only the New Jersey resident who will go to court. The Biden administration’s baffling, seemingly hypocritical stance on the death penalty will come under great scrutiny. Joe Biden has said he opposes executions, but his Justice Department is still seeking the death penalty for the Uzbek immigrant.

Joe Biden, who was instrumental in creating a series of “tough on crime policies”. as a senator in the 1990s, made the surprise announcement that he opposed the death penalty on the 2020 campaign trail, explaining that he was renouncing his previous support because a mountain of evidence of wrongful convictions now showed “we cannot ensure that we get the right to the death penalty every time.”

Also, the Ministry of Justice announced in July 2021 that it was a year later put federal executions on hold when the government reviewed its death penalty policy, after a historic execution party under Donald Trump.

“Serious concerns have been raised about the continued use of the death penalty across the country, including the arbitrariness of its application, the disparate impact on people of color, and the disturbing number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases,” Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote. in a memo at the time explained the moratorium.

“He assured me that on his watch there would be no federal executions,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley told The independent last year.

The president’s personal discomfort with executions has not stopped the Justice Department from pursuing the death penalty in a number of cases of terrorism and domestic extremism, including the Manhattan truck attack, as well as the prosecution of Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and white supremacist church gunman Dylann Tak, although, as The independent have reported, some victims’ families in both cases have expressed their wishes that the government refrains from using the death penalty.

“It’s very difficult to understand the way the Biden administration is thinking and proceeding with the federal death penalty,” Austin Sarat, professor of law and political science at Amherst College, told New York Times.

“Biden’s stance against the death penalty on the campaign trail was, I think, an important signal to many about what this administration can do,” he continued. “The Moratorium on Federal Executions? It is welcome. But there is no sign of anything beyond that.”

In July 2021, the same month Garland announced the moratorium on executions, federal prosecutors praised an appeals court for upholding Tsarnaev’s death sentence.

(Federal Bureau of Investigation)

“The jury carefully considered each of the respondent’s crimes and determined that the death penalty was warranted for the atrocities he personally inflicted,” Acting Assistant Solicitor Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in short at the time.

The White House told Reuters at the time that Joe Biden remains opposed to the death penalty, but the DoJ “has independence regarding such decisions.”

“President Biden has made it clear that he has deep concerns about whether the death penalty is compatible with the values ​​that are fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness,” a spokesperson told the call service.

In March 2022, the Supreme Court came further maintained the verdict of the Boston Bomber.

Roof’s prosecution followed much the same trajectory. In 2021, a month after the moratorium was announced, a federal prosecutor celebrated an appeals court upholding the white supremacist death sentence, calling it a sign that “justice will be served for the victims, the survivors and their families.”

In October 2022, the Supreme Court came rejected an appeal challenging Roof’s execution.

Critics say Mr. Biden says one thing and does another. The president has said he hopes to seek legislation banning the death penalty, though he has spent virtually no public political capital pushing for such a priority.

What’s more, former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Jordan Rubin notes, the president can significantly change death row in the United States even without passing a new bill in Congress by using his executive powers to commute federal death sentences to life in prison en masse.

“Biden could empty federal death row with the stroke of a pen if he wanted to,” Mr Rubin wrote in December. “However, despite his stated concerns about the death penalty, he has not done it.”

The Independent and the non-profit organisation Responsible business initiative for justice (RBIJ) has launched a joint campaign demanding an end to the death penalty in the United States. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 celebrity signatories to its Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent the latest on the list. We join high-profile leaders such as Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.

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