Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) is set to introduce a bill that will end the federal death penalty on the same day that Attorney General William Barr announced that the Justice Department will schedule at least five executions after a two-decade break.
Pressley’s bill is rather short. For those who have yet to be sentenced to death: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person may be sentenced to death or put to death on or after the date of enactment of this Act for any violation of Federal law.”
And for those are currently on death row, Pressley’s bill will change their sentencing: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person sentenced to death before the date of enactment of this Act for any violation of Federal law shall be resentenced.”
Pressley called the reinstatement of federal executions “vile” and reminded reporters of Trump’s endorsement of executions. “The same racist rhetoric coming from the occupant of the White House who called for the execution of the Exonerated 5, is what led to this racist, vile policy,” Pressley said, according to WBUR’s Kimberly Atkins.
The “Exonerated 5" refers to the five black and Latino teenagers who were accused of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989. President Donald Trump spent $85,000 to place a full-page ad in The New York Times and three other newspapers to call for the death penalty for the five children, according to Vox. The boys were eventually exonerated by DNA in 2002. The five men took on the moniker “Exonerated 5" at the 2019 BET Awards in June.
Barr announced the scheduling of the executions of five death-row incarcerated people on Thursday. Here’s his statement:
“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.”
The first scheduled execution is Daniel Lewis Lee on Dec. 9, 2019; followed by Lezmond Mitchell on Dec. 11, 2019; and Wesley Ira Purkey on Dec. 13, 2019. After a monthlong break, Alfred Bourgeois is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 13, 2020, followed by Dustin Lee Honken on Jan. 15, 2020.
It’s unclear how Pressley’s bill would pass the Senate, let alone receive a presidential signature, but Pressley seems to be undeterred. “The death penalty has no place in a just society,” Pressley tweeted on Thursday evening.