Just a few months after he took office, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a moratorium to halt federal executions — a stark contrast after his predecessor carried out 13 in six months. Under Garland’s watch and a president who vowed to abolish the death penalty, the Justice Department took on no new death penalty cases, reported The Associated Press.
That changed as federal prosecutors said they
would seek capital punishment for a white supremacist who
killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket. The decision doesn’t change
the halt on federal executions, but Garland’s first approval of a new capital
prosecution opens a new chapter in the long and complicated history of the
death penalty in the U.S.
Those complexities have been on full display in
recent years. President Joe Biden campaigned in part on a promise to abolish it
but has taken few concrete steps to do so. The Justice Department has pulled
back significantly on the use of capital punishment under Garland’s leadership,
but also has shown a continued willingness to use it in certain cases.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates didn’t take issue
with the decision in the Buffalo case Friday, saying the president has
discussed his views on the issue and would leave individual cases to the
appropriate authorities. The Justice Department, in keeping with its practice
on ongoing cases, did not explain its decision.
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