The Trump administration is busy carrying out executions in the weeks before President-elect Biden takes office.
Nearly 100 law enforcement officials signed an open letter this week urging the Trump administration to halt the scheduled execution of five federal prisoners in the next few months.
The joint statement, released by the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution, was signed by more than 60 current elected prosecutors (district attorneys, state attorneys, prosecuting attorneys, and attorneys general), nine former U.S. Attorneys, and 14 current and former police chiefs and sheriffs.
Miriam Krinsky, a former federal prosecutor and executive director of the criminal justice reform group said in a press release, "Rushing to execute people in the midst of a presidential transition and at a time when COVID-19 is surging would seriously undermine the public’s already-damaged trust in the justice system, and thus erode public safety."
"This administration has a chance to show us that it values fairness, justice and compassion over vengeance — I hope they take it," said Krinsky, who organized and signed the letter. She said the current administration was leaving behind a "sad legacy" by moving ahead with the scheduled federal executions.
The Trump administration has scheduled two executions this month and three in January in the week before President-elect Biden is inaugurated, USA Today noted.
"In the final months [of the administration], it feels like a rush to execution. It doesn't sound like good common sense,” said Darrel Stephens, a former police chief in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina who also signed the letter. He told USA Today that it was the first time he had supported a petition of this kind.
In July, Donald Trump's Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr carried out the first federal execution in 17 years.
Over the summer, the DOJ executed three federal prisoners in just four days.
Before that, only three inmates had been executed by the federal government since 1988.
David Perry, an academic adviser at the University of Minnesota’s history department, called the number and speed of executions under the Trump administration "unprecedented" in a USA Today op-ed.
Perry noted that the Nov. 20 execution of Orlando Hall, who was convicted in the murder and rape of a 16-year-old in 1994, was the first to occur during a presidential transition since 1889.
"Trump and Barr are building a bridge back to the 19th century. Not only is their policy regressive, but the difficulty of obtaining the drugs for lethal injections inspired Barr to issue a new rule permitting the use of firing squads and electrocutions as means of execution," he wrote.
Perry was referring to a DOJ rule change that will go into effect on Dec. 24, which states that federal authorities are permitted to execute death row inmates "by any other manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence was imposed" if lethal injection is unavailable, according to the Washington Post.
As the Post noted, Trump has been a long-standing supporter of capital punishment. Biden, on the other hand, is seeking to "eliminate the death penalty at the federal level," according to his website.
"Over 160 individuals who've been sentenced to death in this country since 1973 have later been exonerated," it states. "Because we cannot ensure we get death penalty cases right every time, Biden will work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government's example."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.