Despite moral objections and legal challenges, the Trump administration executed 13 people between July 2020 and the end of Trump’s term of office. According to the Associated Press, “[this would] cement Trump’s legacy as the most prolific execution president in over 130 years.”
Trump’s actions break a tradition of lame duck presidents deferring to incoming presidents on policy about which they differ so starkly, according to Robert Dunham, director of the non-partisan Death Penalty Information Center.
He stated in an interview with the Associated Press, “It’s hard to understand why anybody at this stage of a presidency feels compelled to kill this many people… especially when the American public voted for someone else to replace you and that person has said he opposes the death penalty.”
The Trump administration’s regression to death penalty punishments is seemingly contrary to global standards over the past few years. According to Amnesty International, annual executions recorded worldwide fell by almost a third in 2018 to the lowest figure in more than a decade.
In an interview with the Associated Press, former Attorney General William Barr defended the extension of executions into the post election period, saying he’ll likely schedule more before he departs the Department of Justice. The Biden administration, he said, should keep it up.
“I think the way to stop the death penalty is to repeal the death penalty,” Barr stated. “But if you ask juries to impose and juries impose it, then it should be carried out.”
illustration by Bailey Granquist