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Hundreds of Organizations Urge President, AG to Halt Federal & Military Death Penalty

Timed to coincide with the delivery of a new letter from Members of Congress to the Biden Administration’s Attorney General, Rev. Sharon Risher, Chairwoman of the board of directors of Death Penalty Action, will announce the delivery of an organizational letter to President Biden (copied to Attorney General Garland), signed by more than 275 organizations and accompanied by more than 20,000 petition signatures. A Congressional sign-on letter being organized by Senator Richard Durbin and Rep. Ayanna Pressley will be delivered today to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Durbin and Pressley are the lead sponsors on the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act, which has the bi-partisan and bi-cameral support of nearly 100 Members of Congress.

“We are urging the Biden Administration to do everything they can to stop seeking new federal and military death sentences, commute the existing death sentences under their jurisdiction, and to order the demolition of the federal death house at Terre Haute, Indiana,” said Risher, whose mother, two cousins and six others were killed by a man currently on federal death row. Risher advocates to end the death penalty because his death sentence lingers over me and my family too, and we don’t want to be reminded of his horrific actions every time another appeal comes up.”


Below is the full text of the letter.


President Joseph R. Biden

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:


Your declared intention to abolish the federal death penalty has our sturdy support. At the same time, we must express our dismay at the lack of progress toward your stated goal, or even an indication of your intent to implement policy shifts that are within your power as President to enact unilaterally.


We were further dismayed at the vote against the UN Resolution for a Worldwide Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty by the United States at the United Nations General Assembly on December 15, 2022. We consider that a “missed opportunity” to send a clear message both globally and within the United States that your Administration considers executions to be unacceptable in all cases.


As you are aware, this abhorrent and outdated punishment raises profound concerns, including the arbitrariness of its application, its inherent racial bias, and the alarming rate of innocence among those sentenced to death. Ending the federal and military death penalty is not only an important step toward correcting myriad flaws in the criminal legal system in the United States, it is both good governance and a moral imperative.


The good news is that it is not too late to act decisively. We urge you to exhibit leadership to make federal executions impossible by taking the following immediate actions:


Commute the sentences of those currently on federal and military death rows;


Deauthorize all pending federal capital trial cases and establish guidelines prohibiting authorization of any new death penalty prosecutions during your administration;


Rescind the lethal injection protocol; rescind the “Manner of Execution”

regulation that took effect in December 2020; rescind internal DOJ guidelines on litigating death row cases that took effect in December 2020;


Order the Federal Bureau of Prisons to demolish the federal execution chamber and the building in which it is housed at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terre Haute;


Pledge to support and sign the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act (H.R. 262/S.B. 582), which abolishes federal and military death penalty laws, removes the possibility of death sentences, and mandates fair re-sentencing of those currently on federal and military death rows.


We and a burgeoning number of our partner organizations around the country and internationally stand ready to support you in this giant leap toward a more just United States. We are grateful that under your administration there have been no additional executions of federal prisoners.


Thank you for your immediate action.


Sincerely,


Rev. Sharon Risher

Chair, Death Penalty Action

Daughter of Ethel Lance, whose killer is a prisoner on Federal Death Row


289 Signing organizations as of 5pm ET on January 2, 2023


Including these leading national organizations:


  • American Civil Liberties Union Foundation

  • Amnesty International USA

  • Association of U.S. Catholic Priests

  • Catholic Mobilizing Network

  • Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE)

  • Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty

  • Death Penalty Action

  • Death Penalty Focus

  • Democrats For Life of America

  • The Eighth Amendment Project

  • EJUSA Evangelical Network

  • Episcopal Peace Fellowship

  • Equal Justice USA

  • Faithful America

  • Franciscan Action Network

  • Human Rights Watch

  • The Innocence Project

  • L'chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty

  • LIVEFREE USA

  • Methodist Federation for Social Action

  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF)