Washington: President-elect Joe Biden is against the death penalty and will work to end its use, his spokesman said Saturday, as the Justice Department scheduled three more federal executions before the Jan. 20 inauguration, including two shortly before he is set to take office.
The Bureau of Prisons on Thursday carried out the eighth federal execution this year, after a 17-year hiatus, and it is likely to increase pressure on Biden to decide whether his administration would continue to schedule executions once he is sworn in. Advocacy groups have called on the Trump administration to pause all executions until Biden takes office.
Biden opposes the death penalty now and in the future, press secretary TJ Ducklo said. He did not say whether executions would be paused immediately once Biden takes office.
Federal executions resumed this year despite the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 250,000 people and is raging inside the nation's prison systems. This year, the Justice Department has put to death more people than during the previous half-century, despite waning public support from both Democrats and Republicans for its use.
In a court filing Friday night, the department said it was scheduling the executions of Alfred Bourgeois for Dec. 11 and Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs for Jan. 14 and 15. Two other executions had been scheduled for this year, including the first woman set to be executed by the federal government in about six decades. But on Thursday, a federal judge ruled that execution could not proceed before the end of the year.
Prosecutors say Bourgeois tortured, sexually molested, and then beat to death his 2 1/2-year-old daughters to death.
Johnson was one of three crack cocaine dealers convicted in a string of murders. Prosecutors said he killed seven people in an attempt to expand the territory of a Richmond, Virginia, gang and silence informants. His co-defendants, members of the same drug gang, are also on death row.
Johnson's lawyers argue their client is intellectually disabled, and thus it would be unconstitutional to put him to death. The Supreme Court has held that it is unlawful to execute a person who is of such low intelligence that they can't function in society.
His lawyers say "no jury or court has ever listened to the evidence at a hearing to decide if he has an intellectual disability. Higgs was convicted of ordering the 1996 murders of three women at a federal wildlife center near Beltsville, Maryland. Prosecutors say Higgs and two others abducted the women after Higgs became enraged because one of the women rebuffed his advances at the party.
Higgs' attorney, Sean Nolan, said his client didn't kill anyone, had ineffective attorneys, and didn't deserve the death penalty.
Higgs' co-defendant, who prosecutors said carried out the killings, was not sentenced to death and Nolan said it is arbitrary and inequitable to punish Mr. Higgs more severely than the person who committed the murders.
All three men are Black, as were those who were recently executed. One upcoming execution has been placed on hold, in part because the death row inmate's lawyers got coronavirus.
When executions resumed this year, the death-row inmates chosen were all white. Critics have argued that executing white inmates first was a political calculation in a nation embroiled in racial bias concerns involving the criminal justice system.
A September report by the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center said Black people remain overrepresented on death rows, including federal death row.
The organization's database shows that 25 of 55 federal death row inmates (46%) are Black, while Blacks make up only about 13% of the U.S. population. (
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Washington, Nov 30: US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named Janet Yellen as his Treasury Secretary and Indian-American Neera Tanden as Director of Office of Management and Budget, as he announced key members of his economic team.
If confirmed by the US Senate, Yellen, 74, will be the first woman to lead the Treasury Department in its 231-year history, and the first person to have served as Treasury Secretary, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, and Chair of the Federal Reserve. She has previously been confirmed by the Senate on four separate occasions.
Tanden, 50, if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman of colour and first Indian-American to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Tanden's career has focused on pursuing policies designed to support working families, foster broad-based economic growth, and curb rampant inequality.
"Another proud day for Indian Americans to see Neera Tanden be nominated for a Cabinet level position in the next administration. This position at OMB is a wide-ranging role with broad powers to manage trillions of dollars of the US budget. If anyone had any doubts that our community has arrived politically, this election cycle is proof enough," Indiaspora founder M R Rangaswami, and an eminent philanthropist and venture capitalist, told PTI.
Announcing key members of his economic team, Biden also named Wally Adeyemo, as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury; Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; and Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey, as members of the Council of Economic Advisers. Biden would formally introduce his team on Tuesday.
This crisis-tested team will help Biden administration lift America out of the current economic downturn and build back better creating an economy that gives every single person across America a fair shot and an equal chance to get ahead, the transition said.
These choices reflect the president-elect's commitment to building an administration that looks like America, drawing on the diverse backgrounds and lived experiences of some of our nation's foremost economic experts, it said.
"As we get to work to control the virus, this is the team that will deliver immediate economic relief for the American people during this economic crisis and help us build our economy back better than ever," Biden said in a statement.
This team is comprised of respected and tested groundbreaking public servants who will help the communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and address the structural inequities in our economy, he said.
"They will work tirelessly to ensure every American enjoys a fair return for their work and an equal chance to get ahead, and that our businesses can thrive and outcompete the rest of the world. This team looks like America and brings seriousness of purpose, the highest degree of competency, and unwavering belief in the promise of America. They will be ready on day one to get to work for all Americans," Biden said.
According to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, this outstanding economic team will help the Biden administration deliver on its commitment.
"They are not only some of America's most brilliant economic minds, they are also proven leaders who reflect the very best of our country," she said.
"And they share a fundamental commitment to ending this economic crisis and putting people back to work, while rebuilding our economy in a way that lifts up all Americans. With the selection of these crisis-tested public servants, the American people are getting the economic team they need and deserve," Harris said.
Adeyemo, a veteran of the Executive Branch and expert on macro-economic policy and consumer protection with deep national security experience, has previously served as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, Deputy National Security Advisor, and the first Chief of Staff of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
If confirmed, Adeyemo would be the first African-American Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
Rouse is a leading labour economist and the Dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. She has previously been confirmed by the Senate as a member of the CEA in 2009. If confirmed, she will become the first African-American and just the fourth woman to lead the CEA in the 74 years of its existence.
Bernstein had previously served as Chief Economist to President-elect Biden in the first years of the Obama-Biden administration. Heather Boushey is a distinguished economist focused on economic inequality and the President, CEO, and co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.