What’s next for the federal death penalty?

June 23, 2021 | Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced an official review of the federal death penalty. The news left death penalty opponents to wonder whether it might be a sign of a future moratorium on federal executions, or possibly a series of presidential commutations for those on the federal death row.

In reality, however, the announcement of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) review is no clear indication of President Biden’s intentions.  

In fact, just last week, Biden’s DOJ urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was convicted of the deadly 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. 

The White House says it wants to ensure the DOJ’s independence in specific capital cases and also asserts that the president has not backed away from his campaign promise to end the federal death penalty.

These arguably mixed signals from the federal government have highlighted the need for clear and consistent advocacy against the federal death penalty — it could be enough to nudge President Biden in the right direction.


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