Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduces bill to abolish federal death penalty after DOJ reinstates it

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Federal death penalty reinstated

Just after the Department of Justice reversed a 16-year rule banning the use of capital punishment, Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley said the death penalty has "no place in a just society." In response, the Massachusetts congresswoman is introducing a bill that would reverse the action and abolish the death penalty altogether.

While short on details, the bill aims to "prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for any violation of Federal law, and for other purposes." It's the latest piece of legislation introduced by Pressley, a member of the so-called "squad" of progressive Democratic congresswomen, that directly counters the Trump administration.

"The same racist rhetoric coming from the occupant of the White House, who called for the execution of the #Exonerated5, is what led to this racist, vile policy," Pressley tweeted, remarking on Mr. Trump's past claims that the wrongly convicted "Central Park Five" should face the death penalty for their alleged crimes.

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"It was wrong then and it's wrong now. The cruelty is the point – this is by design," she added.

Pressley tweeted out an image of the bill. It states, if enacted, "no person may be sentenced to death or put to death on or after the date of enactment of this act for any violation of federal law." It notes that those who were sentenced before the bill's enactment should be re-sentenced for their crimes.

On Thursday, Attorney General William Barr anounced that his DOJ was bringing back capital punishment after more than 16 years without a single federal execution. Barr has now directed the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to adopt a change to the federal execution protocol to make it possible to execute inmates on death row.

In doing so, Barr directed the BOP's Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz to schedule executions for five convicted murderers, and the Justice Department says more executions will be scheduled soon.

The bill currently has support from the likes of Pressley's "squad" co-members Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez among 11 other Democrats. It also has support from Rep. Justin Amash, formerly of the Republican party.

First published on July 26, 2019 / 8:48 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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