Death Penalty
August 6, 2021
Will it be abolished in the United States?

After Republican Donald Trump ended a nearly 17-year pause by presiding over 13 federal executions during the final six months of his presidency, Democrat Joe Biden’s new administration in July announced a moratorium while the Justice Department reviews the Trump administration’s capital punishment policies. Trump was the first president since 1889 to order executions after losing re-election, and the first to order the execution of a woman in 67 years. Outside Washington, capital punishment is on the defensive. In March, Virginia became the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty, and polls show public support for capital punishment is declining although a majority still approve. States executed seven prisoners last year, the fewest since 1983 when there were five. One important reason was the COVID-19 pandemic, as states limited trials and executions as they sought to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Side-by-side photo of Lisa Montgomery and her victim, Bobbie Jo Stinnett. (Getty Images/Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department/Kansas City Star) The execution of Lisa Montgomery (left) on Jan. 13 was the first federal execution of a woman in 67 years. She was convicted of strangling Bobbie Jo Stinnett (right) in Skidmore, Mo., in 2004. (Getty Images/Wyandotte County Sheriff's Department/Kansas City Star)

President Biden has promised to reverse the federal government’s approach to the death penalty, just as his predecessor did.

Donald Trump’s administration put 13 federal prisoners to death in the final six months of his term. Biden, who had supported capital punishment during his long legislative career, announced that he now is opposed — the first sitting president to hold that position. 1

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