Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Preziosi on Biden (and Trump) on the Federal Death Penalty

Dominic Preziosi has a piece in Commonweal called "Executioner in Chief" in which, inter alia, he criticizes the decision by the Biden Administration's Department of Justice to seek the death penalty for Payton Gendron, shot and killed ten black people at a Buffalo supermarket. As Preziosi observes, this decision seems inconsistent with Biden's stated (although not always consistent) opposition to capital punishment and his promises to do what is within his power to abolish the federal death penalty (or, at least, to restore the effective moratorium that had been in place on federal executions until 2020.

Like Preziosi, I would welcome legislation that repealed the death penalty at the federal level. (I would be less enthusiastic about a judicial decision that purported to invalidate the federal death penalty, because I am confident that the Constitution, correctly understood, permits the use of capital punishment for at least some federal crimes. And, while prosecutorial discretion is, appropriately, a fact of life, I am not entirely comfortable with executively-annouced moratoria that amount to non-enforcement of duly enacted federal law. But, put these reservations aside.)

There was a time, during the early years of the Obama administration, when abolition of the federal death penalty was politically possible, and that administration failed to take advantage of that opportunity.  At present, abolition is probably not politically feasible. And, in any event, it seems that -- given all the political givens -- the administration has decided (perhaps, for reasons like those that motivated then-Governor Bill Clinton in the Rector case) to shelve, at least for now, its earlier professed abolitionism.


Garnett, Rick | Permalink


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