Nov 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden seeks to end executions as Justice Department plans 3 more

Joe Biden speaking in Wilmington, Delaware on Nov. 16.

Joe Biden speaking in Wilmington, Delaware on Nov. 16. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden stressed his opposition to the federal death penalty on Saturday just after the Trump administration scheduled three executions of inmates on death row before his Jan. 20 inauguration.

Why it matters: The Justice Department on Friday directed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule three additional executions on top of two it has already scheduled for December.

Context: The Bureau of Prisons put Orlando Hall, 49, to death on Thursday. He was found guilty of kidnapping, raping and burying a Texas teenager alive in 1994.

  • Hall was the eighth inmate to be executed by the federal government this year following a 17-year hiatus. The DOJ has executed more people in 2020 than during the previous half-century, according to AP.
  • The last time the government carried out an execution between a presidential election and the inauguration of the new president was 1889, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center.

What they're saying: “The President-Elect opposes the death penalty, now and in the future, and as president will work to end its use," TJ Ducklo, press secretary for the Biden-Harris campaign, said in a statement on Saturday.

The big picture: Alfred Bourgeois is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 11. He was found guilty of murdering his 2 1/2-year-old daughter in 2004.

  • Cory Johnson's execution is planned for Jan. 14, 2021. He was found guilty of seven counts of capital murder, though his lawyers argue Johnson is intellectually disabled and therefore prohibited from being executed, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
  • Dustin Higgs is set to be executed on Jan. 15. He was convicted of ordering the murders of three women 1996. Higgs' attorneys argue he is intellectually disabled and receiving an "arbitrary and inequitable" punishment since the person who prosecutors claim carried out the killings did not receive the death penalty, according to AP.
  • All three are Black men, as was Hall.
Go deeper