If Biden Is Serious About Ending the Death Penalty, He Should Start Commuting Sentences

During his campaign, President Joe Biden said he would eliminate the federal death penalty. On Friday, the Supreme Court sent him an email: “They’re not going do it for you.”

The Supreme Court ruled that Dzhokhar was not guilty of the Federal Death Penalty for helping his brother Tamerlan in the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Tsarnaev, who was originally sentenced to death in a jury trial, was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals First Circuit in 2020. Tsarnaev was sentenced to death by a jury. However, the judges determined that the judge who oversaw sentencing did not screen the jurors properly for the amount of media they’d consumed and whether any opinions they held about Tsarnaev. Tsarnaev also tried to convince jurors to forgive him by linking his brother, who was killed while the brothers were fighting. However, the judge did not allow Tamerlan to present evidence that suggested he may have been involved previously in the triple homicide at Waltham in Massachusetts. The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Tamerlan and ordered a new sentence.

While Tsarnaev was being appealed by his lawyers, Biden ran for president. He pledged to end the federal death penalty as part of his platform for criminal justice reform (and the platform of 2020 Democratic Party).

Biden was elected, and his Department of Justice appealed to the Supreme Court for the defense of Tsarnaev’s death sentence and sought to have it restored. In a clear ideological split, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan all voted in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision.

It should be noted that the appeals court only decided that Tsarnaev needed to face a fresh sentencing hearing. Tsarnaev is still guilty of the crime and will never be free again. However, the majority of Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of the appellate court and said that Tsarnaev did not abuse his discretion. Justice Clarence Thomas stated in the majority verdict: “Dzhokhar Takarnaev was guilty of heinous offences. However, the Sixth Amendment guaranteed that he would be tried fairly before an impartial court. One was granted to him.

Breyer, Sotomayor, and others have raised concerns about executions and tried to push the Supreme Court for more defendants’ appeals. However, they were unsuccessful. It is striking to see the Supreme Court’s current attitudes towards death penalty. Did For the purpose of returning a sentence to death, you can appeal the federal government.

It is not a precedent-setting decision. The issue is fundamentally about the court’s discretionary and supervisory supervision. While it was never going to concern the validity of the death sentence, Breyer did mention in his dissension that these issues demonstrate the “problems inherent in any system that permits the imposition thereof”.

The Supreme Court does not intend to reconsider whether or not the death penalty should be constitutional. Kagan did sign the dissent but she also made it clear that she was not going to join Breyer in his lament over the general application of the death sentence.

If they decide to abolish the federal death sentence, it will be up to Congress and President Biden. Biden’s Department of Justice implemented an execution moratorium, though it was self-imposed by them. This is difficult to consider seriously, given the fact that Tsarnaev had been executed under the exact same Department of Justice.

As for Congress, who could via legislation eliminate the use of the death penalty, there’s a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D–Mass.) It hasn’t succeeded. The bill has 78 cosponsors. Only one is Republican, Rep. Peter Meijer from Michigan. The Senate version, which is identical to the Senate’s bill but has 19 cosponsors (all Democrats), it too seems unlikely. The Senate is stuck in partisan conflict, so it’s unlikely the federal death penalty can be repealed legislatively anytime soon.

Biden could commute each sentence of 44 federally executed prisoners to life imprisonment if he keeps his campaign promise. C.J. Ciaramella pointed out that the president had not kept his promises regarding criminal justice reform during Biden’s State of the Union speech last week. As things stand, Ciaramella noted that Biden may not even be willing to commute these sentences. It’s clear that he wants to make sure they don’t get executed.