President Joe Biden vowed to introduce legislation to stop the federal death sentence and to get other states to do the same during his 2020 presidential campaign. For the past two years, execution opponents have become increasingly agitated. They may now be in for a big letdown because, despite Biden’s assurances, the Department of Justice is permitting a Manhattan federal court to pursue the death penalty for a killer who has already been found guilty.
As a candidate, Biden pledged to abolish the death penalty at the federal level, creating a precedent he hoped other states would imitate. His campaign website made the case that life without parole should take the place of the death penalty because it had previously resulted in the execution of innocent people. Death penalty opponents awaited his introduction of the anticipated measure to abolish federal executions after his inauguration.
Less than 3 months after Biden assumed office, opponents of execution began to worry about the administration’s inaction. The president got right to work, signing a flurry of executive orders on many topics, but none regarding the death sentence. Biden didn’t issue an executive order prohibiting federal executions, and he didn’t ask congress to introduce legislation that would have repealed the federal death penalty act, despite the White House’s reassuring claims that he had “grave concerns about capital punishment.” Without that law, activists cautioned, new death sentences might be handed down and old ones be executed.
A jury in a federal court in Manhattan found Sayfullo Saipov convicted of eight murder charges on January 26. The Uzbek immigrant hired a pickup truck on October 31, 2017, after which he ran over eight people on a bike route along the Hudson River, murdered them, and harmed 11 others. In order to impress Islamic State and join the terrorist organization, according to the prosecution, he perpetrated the atrocity, and they are calling for his execution. The same jury that found him guilty will meet again on February 6 to determine the sentence. Saipov will be given a fatal injection if they decide to put him to death.
Despite the DOJ’s plea for Saipov to get the death penalty during the Trump administration, Biden has not taken any action to stop it. Saipov will be taken to death row if the New York court sentences him to death, despite Attorney General Merrick Garland’s order to stop all federal executions. A future president might be put to death if he or she decides to lift the moratorium, as Trump did.