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Kaine Joins Durbin, Leahy, Booker To Introduce Legislation To Ban The Death Penalty

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined Senators Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Cory Booker to introduce legislation to immediately ban the use of the death penalty by the federal government. The legislation comes after Attorney General (AG) William Barr’s announcement that federal executions will resume for the first time in more than 16 years. While there have been only three federal executions in the last five decades, AG Barr has ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to carry out five executions in less than two months in December 2019 and January 2020. 

“Driven by my faith, I have long been morally opposed to the death penalty,” Kaine said. “I spent a year working as a missionary in Honduras, where I saw that despite great suffering and pain, God is present in every person. In 1987, I said ‘murder is wrong in the gulag, in Afghanistan, in Soweto, in the mountains of Guatemala, in Fairfax County… and even the Spring Street Penitentiary.’ I still hold that belief today as the Trump Administration prepares to execute five people. We should abolish the death penalty once and for all, and I’m proud to introduce a bill to eliminate it at the federal level.”

“Try as we might, we cannot escape the fact that the death penalty in America is disproportionately imposed on minorities and poor people,” Durbin said.  “Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens both declared their opposition to the death penalty by the end of their judicial careers, recognizing the system to be deeply flawed.  I am also struck by the revelations we have had over the last few decades that led to dozens of exonerations of innocent prisoners who had languished for years on death row, awaiting execution for crimes they didn’t commit. In light of these concerns, Illinois eliminated the state death penalty eight years ago.  We should do the same at the federal level.”

“Last week I again sat down with my longtime friend, Kirk Bloodsworth.  Kirk was in prison for eight years, including two on death row, before DNA evidence exonerated him.  The DNA testing program named in his honor has exonerated 50 more.  The death penalty fails by any objective measure.  It is too final and too prone to error.  It fails as a deterrent.  It is racially biased.  And it is beneath us as a nation,” said Leahy.

U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives last week.

Along with Kaine, Durbin, Leahy, and Booker, the legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).