The Department of Justice (DOJ) has withdrawn the death penalty under the leadership of Merrick Garland for at least a dozen of cases, reversing decisions of the previous administrations of both Democrats and Republicans.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Merrick Garland issued memos to retract federal executions in almost 12 cases, including one in Houston itself.
Garland’s opposition to the death penalty portrays a trend against the punishment
Garland’s approach towards death penalties manifests a significant shift from his predecessor William Barr, who served as the attorney general for the Trump administration.
Barr pursued executions of six inmates during the last six months of Trump’s presidency. His actions broke over 130 years of tradition, according to which federal executions were stopped during a presidential transition.
— Death Penalty News (@WebDPN) December 28, 2021
Announcing to review capital punishment cases, Garland declared to stop executions on July 1, 2021. By issuing a memo back then, he portrayed he is aiming to reseek the use of lethal injections and the risk of pain associated with the use of pentobarbital on death row inmates.
Not only this, but Garland stated in November 2020 he would review changes in the Justice Department regulations to expand permissible methods of execution beyond injecting lethal doses to inmates.
Ryan K. Patrick, the former attorney who worked under the Trump administration, noted withdrawals of the death penalty by the incumbent administration show a possibility the DOJ is willing to review all the pending prosecutions.
There are 44 inmates currently present on the federal death row in the United States.
Biden administration opposed Trump’s, Obama’s policies in pursuing the death penalty
James Wayne of Texas was sentenced to life imprisonment earlier in December after pleading guilty to shooting a postal worker and his grandmother, then burning the remains back in 2013.
While various attorneys requested the court to issue a death penalty to Wayne for two murders, Garland approved a plea deal, hence withdrawing the death penalty from the case.
Both the Obama and the Trump administrations pursued the death penalty in the case.
— Death Penalty News (@WebDPN) October 17, 2021
Meanwhile, the DOJ has not yet withdrawn the death penalty for some violent cases, like Dylann Roof, who was involved in the murder of nine black people in the 2015 hate crime.
Similarly, the death penalty of a Boston bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who killed three people in 2013, also stays.
The latest surveys indicated most Americans support the death penalty for murderers, believing it can serve the purpose of a deterrent.
According to the Pew Research center data, almost 60 percent of Americans believe the death penalty should be given to murderers. This included 27 percent of people who strongly favor this stance.
On the other hand, 39 percent of Americans opposed this measure, including 15 who are against the death penalty firmly.
As of December 29, the DOJ did not respond to media requests for comments on the matter.