Sen. Kaine, colleagues announce bill to end federal death penalty

Sen. Kaine, colleagues announce bill to end federal death penalty
FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections shows the execution chamber at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. (Virginia Department of Corrections via AP, File) (Source: AP)

WASHINGTON (WDBJ) - U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), along with Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), announced a bicameral bill Tuesday, January 12, to end the federal death penalty.

The Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 would prohibit the use of the death penalty as punishment for any violation of federal law and would require re-sentencing of those on death row.

“I have long been morally opposed to the death penalty and believe murder of any sort is wrong,” Sen. Kaine said. “Capital punishment in the United States is disproportionally applied to people of color. We cannot continue to make claims for a more perfect union while condoning outdated, inhumane, and unjust practices. As a former civil rights lawyer, I am proud to reintroduce this bill to eliminate the use of capital punishment at the federal level once and for all.”

The bill was originally introduced by Kaine and his colleagues in July 2019, after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would resume use of the death penalty.

Federal executions resumed for the first time in 17 years July 14, 2020. Since then, the Trump Administration has executed 10 people.

A release from Sen. Kaine’s office stated: “The United States stands alone among its peers in executing its own citizens, a barbaric punishment that denies the dignity and humanity of all people and is disproportionately applied to people who are Black, Latinx, or poor.”

Black people make up less than 13% of the U.S. population, but they account for more than 42% of people on death row, according to the release.

The release also referenced a nationwide study that found at least 1-in-25 people sentenced to death are innocent.

The Senate version of the bill will be introduced when the Senate reconvenes later in January. Representative Pressley led 63 of her House colleagues in introducing a companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill is endorsed by 240 organizations.

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