Future US President Biden is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty. The Trump administration wants to have several more prisoners executed before taking office. One of them has since been murdered.
The administration of US President-elect Donald Trump had convicted a black man of murder nearly six weeks before his replacement, despite prominent opposition. 40-year-old Brandon Bernard was killed by lethal injection in prison in Terre Haute, Indiana on Thursday evening, US media reported.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the US government plans to carry out four more death sentences before victorious Trump challenger Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. Future President Biden – a Democrat – has spoken out for the abolition of the death penalty at the federal level. Republican Trump, on the other hand, is in favor of executions. The US Supreme Court had rejected a motion on Thursday evening to suspend Bernard’s execution.
Kim Kardashian stood up for Bernard
Reality TV star Kim Kardashian – who has good relations with Trump – had campaigned for Bernard, who as an 18-year-old gang member was arrested for murder and sentenced to death by a jury. Kardashian wrote on Twitter Thursday, “It’s Human Rights Day, and here in the United States we are executing someone who was 18 at the time of the crime, who was not the shooter and who has rehabilitated himself. So shameful.”
According to reports in the American media, even jurors at the time spoke out in favor of commuting the death penalty into a life sentence. At the last minute, two prominent US attorneys Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr also asked for a 14-day suspension of the death penalty. Both had defended Trump in his impeachment process in Congress.
Again executions at federal level
U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced a resumption of federal-level executions in 2019. After a legal tug of war, a death sentence was carried out on this basis for the first time in more than 17 years in July last year. Since then, a total of nine people, including Bernard, have been executed by order of the federal government, regardless of whether the death penalty was carried out in the United States. The next federal execution is scheduled for next Friday.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), five white, three black and one Native American had been executed since July. A prisoner was last executed for Bernard on November 19 – more than two weeks after the November 3 elections. According to US media reports, three black women and one white woman are among the four other death row inmates to be executed before Biden’s inauguration. She would be the first woman to be executed at the federal level in more than 60 years. Her execution is scheduled for January 12.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 22 of the 50 US states plus the main Washington district have now abolished the death penalty. Three other states have a moratorium on the basis of which the death penalty can still be imposed but will no longer be carried out.
At the federal level, the death penalty was imposed between 2003 and July 2020, but it was no longer carried out. The resumption of executions had led to a lawsuit in Washington’s Supreme Court in which the Trump administration prevailed. Biden has announced that he will completely abolish the death penalty at the federal level and promote it among the states. Instead, the maximum sentence should be life imprisonment without parole.
The federal government’s human rights commissioner, Bärbel Kofler, only called on the U.S. government on Monday to end the execution of the death penalty at the federal level. The executions in the United States go against the global trend toward abolition of the death penalty, which only exists in less than 60 of the roughly 200 countries, Kofler said. “The federal government rejects the death penalty as a cruel and inhumane form of punishment under all circumstances.”