Human Dignity, Death Penalty Incompatible, Biden Must Act to End Practice, Rights Activist Says
© AP Photo / Rick BowmerThe execution room is shown Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in Salem, Ore
© AP Photo / Rick Bowmer
WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Ekaterina Chukaeva - President Joe Biden must realize capital punishment and respect for human dignity are incompatible and take decisive action to cease such a practice, Kathleen Lucas, a member of Death Penalty Abolition Steering Committee, Amnesty International USA told Sputnik after the US executed two inmates in one day.
On Thursday, Oklahoma executed death row inmate Donald Grant for murdering two women during a robbery at a hotel in 2001. Grant, 46, killed McLeyea, the manager of the hotel, and Smith, the front desk clerk, during a robbery to bail his girlfriend out of jail, according to media reports. Grant was executed by lethal injection, the third in Oklahoma since the practice resumed in the state last year. Experts for Grant's defense attorneys diagnosed him as schizophrenic but the state's experts claimed the diagnosis was false.
Also on Thursday, the state of Alabama executed another death row inmate Matthew Reeves for the murder of a man who gave him a ride back in 1996. Reeves claimed that the authorities did not help him understand the paperwork about his execution. However, the state later contended that Reeves was intellectually sound to fill out the form. The decision was backed by the Supreme Court.
"President Biden must recognize that respect for human dignity and the death penalty are incompatible and take definitive action now to end these ultimate human rights violations," Lucas said.
During the election campaign, Biden pledged to work to pass legislation to abolish the federal death penalty. In summer, Attorney General Merrick Garland imposed a temporary moratorium on federal executions as the Justice Department reviews the Trump administration's decision to revive the practice after a 17-year hiatus.
9 December 2021, 22:39 GMT
Lucas added that Amnesty International welcomes Biden’s abolitionist pledge and the moratorium on federal executions, however, there are issues he should deal with.
"The president must: commute all existing federal death sentences, close federal death row, dismantle the execution chamber, and work with members of Congress to abolish all aspects of the federal and military death penalty, and incentivize states to follow the federal lead," she said.
According to Lucas, the death penalty should not be an option in all federal, military, and state homicide cases.
"The Solicitor General’s Office should be arguing in court that the death penalty violates both international law and the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment," Lucas concluded.
'Inefficient Punishment Scheme'
Speaking on the execution in Oklahoma, Akin Adepoju, the Chairman of the Board of Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told Sputnik that it comes at a time when opposition to the death penalty among Americans is at its highest level.
"Donald Grant's execution despite substantial evidence that he lived with mental illness and brain damage further highlights to the American people and the world that the death penalty is an inefficient punishment scheme," Adepoju who is also a law professor who teaches Advanced Criminal Procedure and Death Penalty and the Law at University of District of Columbia.
He noted that after the execution the public will call more for Biden's action on his expressed opposition to the death penalty.
"President Biden, even without congressional action, has the authority to commute all federal death sentences to life without the possibility of parole. This would ensure that even if future administrations revive federal executions, they would not be able to execute anyone currently on federal death row, which is disproportionately full of people of color," he said.
Biden could also urge the US Congress to provide federal incentives for state and local prosecutors to avoid seeking capital punishment, according to Adepoju.
"For instance, it could provide more funding for crime victims and locally-led crime prevention measures that we know works in helping heal our communities," he suggested.
At the moment, the authorities of the 27 states, as well as the federal government and the military are eligible to carry out death penalties, which primarily come in a form of lethal injections. Over 2,000 prisoners across the United States have so far been sentenced to death.
The most recent record was established by former US leader Donald Trump, whose final days of presidency saw 13 executions of federal inmates, and the first death penalty in 17 years in the country was carried out in July 2020.