Published on: Monday, January 11, 2021

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the incoming Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., are unveiling legislation that would seek to end federal capital punishment, putting focus on the issue as their party prepares to take over complete control of Congress, along with the White House (article available here).

The legislation would end capital punishment at the federal level and require the re-sentencing of all federal inmates currently on death row.

The federal government executed 10 people last year, more than all the states combined over the same period. And three more executions are scheduled for the final days of the Trump administration, before Biden takes office. Biden has said that he wants to work with Congress to pass a law to eliminate capital punishment at the federal level, and to "incentivize" states to follow that example.

One of the longest-standing criticisms of capital punishment is the racial disparities in the United States. Studies have shown that defendants convicted of killing White victims are sentenced more harshly than those who have killed Black victims.