A group of congressional Democrats is urging the Trump administration to halt federal executions until the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden can “evaluate and determine” the future of the death penalty.
In a letter dated Friday to Attorney General William Barr, the lawmakers accused the Trump administration of “recklessly” restarting federal executions in July after a 17-year absence.
“In less than three months, the Administration executed seven people — more than the total number executed over the past six decades,” reads the letter signed by Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
The letter also noted that minorities are disproportionately impacted by capital punishment.
“The death penalty in America is disproportionately imposed on Black and Brown people and low income people, and at least 172 people sentenced to death have reportedly been exonerated after languishing for years on death row,” the letter said.
The Trump administration has defended the death penalty, even as support for it continues to decline nationwide. Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row, is scheduled to be executed Dec. 8 at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute in Indiana.
Criminal justice advocates have urged Trump to spare her life. Montgomery, 52, was convicted in connection with a 2004 pre-meditated kidnap scheme in which she strangled a pregnant woman in Kansas and cut into her abdomen and removed the baby from her body.
Authorities said she attempted to pass off the child as her own.
The congress members said Biden plans to eliminate the federal death penalty as part of his criminal justice reform plan and that Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is a co-sponsor of legislation to abolish the punishment at the federal level as well.
“They deserve an opportunity to implement their policy agenda without the Trump Administration rushing to take preemptive and irreversible steps,” they wrote.