- 17 Senate Democrats called on AG Merrick Garland to take further steps toward eliminating the federal death penalty.
- “There are serious concerns about arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty,” they wrote in a letter.
- Garland paused federal executions last month, a reversal from the Trump administration.
A group of Senate Democrats on Monday urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to stop seeking federal executions, writing in a letter that “it’s time to end the federal death penalty.”
The 17 lawmakers, led by Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Cory Booker of New Jersey, asked Garland to withdraw all pending death notices and forbid issuing new death notices while the Department of Justice reviews its policies on capital punishment.
“There are serious concerns about arbitrariness in the application of the death penalty, its disparate impact on people of color, and the alarming number of exonerations in capital cases,” the senators wrote. “These concerns justify not only a review of the procedures for carrying out the death penalty, but also support halting its use — including prohibiting federal prosecutors from seeking the death penalty — during the review process.”
The letter’s co-signers included Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Jon Ossoff of Georgia.
Garland last month announced a halt to the federal death penalty and ordered the DOJ to conduct a review of how the government carries out federal executions.
“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in July.
The move was a reversal of the Trump administration, which restarted federal death penalties after a 17-year pause. In just six months, Trump’s DOJ carried out 13 federal executions, the most of any president in over 120 years, according to AP.
The Senate Democrats wrote to Garland that they “were alarmed” by Trump’s revival of the death penalty.
“By refusing to seek the death penalty and add more prisoners to death row, you can reduce the risk that a future administration will carry out federal executions at a similar rate,” they wrote.
Four House Democrats on Monday also called on Garland to take additional steps toward eliminating capital punishment.
“Capital punishment is a deeply flawed and inhumane practice that the Department of Justice can and must discontinue,” the lawmakers, including Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Cori Bush of Missouri, wrote in a letter.
The DOJ has not scheduled any new federal executions since President Joe Biden took office. Currently, there are 46 people on federal death row.
The DOJ did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.