Groups Call on Congress to Investigate, Abolish Federal Death Penalty

Rep. Adriano Espaillat & Rep. Ayanna Pressley Build Support for Pending Legislation


August 24, 2020
Contact: Austin Kieler,

Groups Call on Congress to Investigate,
Abolish Federal Death Penalty
Rep. Adriano Espaillat & Rep. Ayanna Pressley Build Support for Pending Legislation

Washington, DC — As the nation prepares to conduct two more federal executions on August 26th and 28th, nearly 200 local, state and national organizations called on congress to examine issues arising from the current spate of federal executions. (Watch a recording of today’s press conference, here).

“The executions set for this week are timed to take place during the Republican National Convention, and there is no question that Donald Trump is using the power of the presidency to execute prisoners to establish a ‘Law and Order’ credential for himself,” said Abraham Bonowitz, executive director of Death Penalty Action. “This is why we are calling on Congress to investigate these executions, including the role of the Trump campaign, and the legal shenanigans we saw with the first two executions in July.”

Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) discussed his concerns about ongoing federal executions.

“The American people are marching in the streets calling for a transformation of our criminal justice and policing systems. Individuals in communities around the nation are demanding racial justice and a more humane society. Yet, the Trump Administration continues to pursue this cruel and unusual punishment, coupled with the administration’s racial targeting and profiling of minorities,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “I believe it is time to abolish the death penalty once and for all. America was established on the principles of life and liberty and we cannot use the theft of a person’s life as punishment. It’s time to reimagine new approaches to justice and implement comprehensive legislation aimed at more humane forms of punishment for offenses and a repeal of the death penalty for a range of criminal offenses.”

Rep. Ayanna Pressley is also leading on this issue and provided this statement.

“The Trump Administration has operated with cruel urgency to resume federal executions for the first time in 17 years. Beyond its disproportionate use against people who are Black, Latinx, and poor, studies have found that 1 in 25 individuals sentenced to death row are innocent. It is time for the United States to join the majority of the world’s nations and abolish this inhumane punishment that is as cruel as it is ineffective in deterring crime,” stated Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07). “Last month, the President commuted the sentence of his guilty and corrupt associate, and next week, he will kill multiple people using government-sponsored murder. There can be no justice if there are two legal systems in this country — one for the wealthy and well-connected, and one for everyone else. It is time for Congress to take a stand.”

The call to Congress was initiated by Death Penalty Action in the wake of three federal executions in July. Organizations endorsing the call to Congress are listed here. The text of the letter to Congress makes the following requests:

  • Investigate the conduct of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons in light of troubling facts raising questions about the legality and constitutionality of the executions conducted on July 14, 16 and 17, 2020
  • Speak out against the upcoming federal executions this year on August 26, August 28, September 22, September 24, and any others that may be scheduled
  • Pass legislation to end the federal death penalty and prohibit any further federal executions
  • Investigate the scheduling of federal executions and address any ethics violations or violations of the law, if found
  • Close the legal loophole that allowed the federal government to override the Navajo Nation’s stated desire that Lezmond Mitchell not face execution.

The organizations will continue to build momentum in advance of Congress’s scheduled return to Washington in September.

Also participating in the press conference were leaders of organizations who have signed on to the letter to Congress, including the National Council of Churches, Pax Christi USA, Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary of The Wood, and the Terre Haute Branch of the NAACP. as well as members of the Terre Haute Death Penalty Resistance network, which is leading opposition outside the federal prison where federal executions are conducted. Several organizations and individuals recently won concessions from the Indiana State Police after the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit on their behalf, seeking to prevent the Indiana State Police from blocking access to the prison area in future executions.


Death Penalty Action provides high visibility resources, leadership and support in order to stop executions.