Should Congress abolish the death penalty?

Awaiting Vote
Bill Summary

This bill would abolish the death penalty under federal law. No individual could be sentenced to death for a federal crime, and those currently sentenced to death would be resentenced. Sponsor: Rep. Adriano Espaillat (Democrat, New York, District 13)
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Opponents say

• "I firmly believe in capital punishment. It saves the lives of the innocent by punishing the very worst offenders who have committed unspeakable acts of evil, and it deters future crimes. There are some people who disagree with that belief. But here’s what they can’t argue with: capital punishment is undisputedly the law. Each inmate on death row was convicted in federal court and sentenced by a jury of his or her peers under laws passed by Congress and signed by the president." Source: Senator Ted Cruz (Republican, Texas)
• "Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President. Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system." Source: Former Attorney General William Barr (Republican)

Proponents say

• "The death penalty is fundamentally racist, and its roots can be traced directly to America’s terrible history of lynching. Over 42 percent of those on death row and 34 percent of those executed in America are Black, but only 13 percent of America’s population is black. Furthermore, those convicted of killing White victims are seventeen times more likely to be sentenced to death than would be if the victim was Black. The racial disparities in the death penalty are beyond the pale, and we must amend this racist legacy of our criminal justice system. Human life is invaluable, and every human life is sacred. Yet, the death penalty forgets a core tenet of humanity – human beings change. Humans have an immense capacity to learn, to heal, and to grow. Executing someone denies this principle and gives no course for a person to grow. A person is not defined by the worst choice they made, but the death penalty only views someone’s life through this narrow lens. And what’s more, it undermines the core vision upon which this nation was founded. I am proud to introduce this legislation, and believe it is a critical step towards a more righteous, equitable, and just society for all Americans" Source: Rep. Adriano Espaillat (Democrat, New York, District 13)
• "We are past-time as a Nation ending the practice of killing Americans to prove killing is wrong. We must end this barbaric and inhumane practice now. We have learned that executing Americans continues to be administered in a definitively racist, and classes manner. The financial cost is exorbitant, and there is no evidence that the practice helps reduce murders or other crimes. More African Americans than any other race or ethnicity are erroneously executed and either freed or mistakenly executed. This collateral damage must stop as it is actually more expensive to sentence someone to life in prison than executing them. " Source: Hilary O. Shelton (Director, NAACP Washington Bureau)
• "Even the most heinous of crimes can be punished without killing. Yet poor people, especially from communities of color, have been disproportionately charged with capital crimes and sentenced to death compared to wealthier defendants. The stream of people awaiting execution who have been exonerated with DNA evidence is another chilling sign of the death penalty’s brokenness and barbarism. And in addition to being cruel, error-ridden and unjust, the high cost of maintaining the death penalty also diverts needed resources from initiatives to serve victims and to rehabilitate other offenders." Source: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California, District 12)