AG Merrick Garland defies Biden’s vow to end the death penalty
Attorney General Merrick Garland has ruled that a death penalty case can go to trial – a move that directly contradicts President Joe Biden’s vow to end the death penalty.
Garland denied requests from Sayfullo Saipov’s attorneys to have the death penalty off the table in his upcoming federal trial over an alleged attack on cyclists and pedestrians in New York City on Halloween night in 2017.
Saipov’s lawyers had hoped that Garland would be lenient given Biden was fighting the death penalty and ordered a halt to all federal executions in 2021, according to the New York Times.
But Saipov, an Uzbekist by birth, is now said to be the first suspect to face the death penalty under the Biden administration when his trial begins Monday.
If a 12-member jury finds him guilty of the 2017 attack – which killed eight people and injured more than a dozen – they will convene again to decide whether Saipov should be sentenced to life in prison or executed for his crimes shall be.
Sayfullo Saipov is expected to become the first person to face the death penalty under the Biden administration when his trial begins Monday
Attorney General Merrick Garland denied his attorneys’ requests to take the death penalty off the table – a move that directly contradicts President Joe Biden’s vow to end the death penalty
Saipov is accused of plowing a rental car down Manhattan’s West Side bike lane on October 31, 2017.
Federal prosecutors have argued in court documents that Saipov deserves the death penalty because the attack was planned and premeditated and he showed no remorse for his alleged actions.
They said the attack was intended to further “Islamic State’s ideological goals” and argued that Saipov targeted the bike lane on Halloween “to maximize the devastation to civilians.”
Jury selection in this case is expected to take nearly three months, and federal law requires the jury to unanimously decide to impose the death penalty.
Prosecutors expect the trial to last until March. During that time, the jury will likely be presented with vivid evidence and testimony about the attack – in which he said he was inspired by ISIS videos he watched on his phone.
The attack only ended after he drove his truck into a school bus and brandished a pellet and paintball gun while shouting “Allahu akbar,” authorities said at the time.
Saipov was eventually arrested after a police officer shot him in the abdomen.
It was the deadliest attack in New York City since September 11, 2001, killing six tourists, a 24-year-old Manhattan computer scientist and a 32-year-old New Jersey finance worker.
Shortly after he was impeached, then-President Donald Trump tweeted that he “SHOULD GET.” [THE] DEATH PENALTY,’ and his attorney general directed prosecutors to seek execution if convicted.
By January 2018, one of Saipov’s attorneys wrote in court filings that Saipov would plead guilty and accept a life sentence if prosecutors dropped the death penalty, but the proposal was not accepted under the Trump administration.
When Biden came into office, his attorneys tried again, making it clear the offer still stood.
But on September 16, 2022, the Times reports, prosecutors wrote to Judge Vernon S. Broderick, “The Attorney General has decided to continue seeking the death penalty.”
Saipov is accused of driving his rental truck into a Manhattan bike lane on October 31, 2017, killing eight people and injuring dozens more
Authorities said at the time the slaughter only stopped when Saipov drove his truck into a school bus, brandishing a bullet and paintball guns while shouting “Allahu akbar.” He was then shot in the abdomen by a police officer and taken into custody
The decision has seemed like a departure from Garland’s stance on the death penalty over the past two years.
Since taking office, Garland has not sought the death penalty in any new cases and declared the nationwide moratorium on federal executions.
The Justice Department has also withdrawn guidelines issued by previous administrations that called for the death penalty on 25 federal defendants.
And the Justice Department has defended an appeal against the death sentences passed during the Obama administration on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bomber, and Dylan S. Roof, the white supremacist who killed nine members of a black church in South Carolina. was imposed.
“It’s very difficult to understand how the Biden administration thinks about and is going about the federal death penalty,” said Austin Sanat, professor of law and political science at Amherst College.
“Biden’s campaign stance against the death penalty was, I think, an important signal to many of what this administration could do,” he said.
“The federal moratorium on executions – that is to be welcomed. But beyond that there is no sign.”
Michael B. Mukasey, attorney general under former President George W. Bush, said he’s also not sure what standard Garland uses to investigate cases.
“He is clearly following the legislation that Congress has passed in at least reorganizing that the death penalty should be sought in some cases, notwithstanding President Biden’s views to the contrary,” he said.
“I think this is a principled decision and very much the right thing to do.”
President Joe Biden spoke out against the death penalty during his 2020 presidential campaign
Garland appeared at odds with President Joe Biden, who advocated for the abolition of the death penalty, when he allowed Saipov’s trial to proceed
At his confirmation hearing, Garland said his views on the death penalty had changed.
As a Justice Department attorney, Garland led the investigation into the 1995 bombing of Alfred P. Murrah’s federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
Timothy McVeigh, one of the bombers, was executed by lethal injection in 2001.
“I advocated the death penalty for Mr McVeigh in this particular case at the time. I have no regrets,” Garland testified in 2021.
But he added that since then he “has developed concerns about the death penalty over the 20+ years”.
Among those concerns, he said, is the “nature of arbitrariness and randomness in its application, because it is rarely used and because it has differential effects on Black Americans and members of other communities of color.” He also pointed to the large number of DNA discharges.
Garland also acknowledged Biden’s opposition to the death penalty, as well as the president’s authority to create a “general moratorium.”
“The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty is constitutional but not required,” Garland said at the time. “And that is at the discretion of the President.”
Under Biden’s leadership, Garland imposed a freeze on federal executions in July 2021 pending a review of the department’s policies and procedures.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said at the time that Biden approved of the decision.
“As the President has made clear, he has significant concerns about the death penalty and its implementation, and he believes the Justice Department should return to its previous practice of not carrying out executions.”
Garland had previously halted all federal executions and expressed concern about the death penalty
However, experts note that the President has never instructed the Attorney General to rule out the death penalty in all cases.
They say the fact that Garland is still seeking the death penalty for Saipov shows the Biden administration will still execute those accused of terrorism.
They point out that none of the 25 defendants for whom the Justice Department has overturned the death penalty have been charged with a terrorism-related offence.
“It was clear early on that despite what both the President and the Attorney General said, there was going to be this kind of segregation around terrorism,” said Anthony L. Ricco, a veteran death penalty attorney.
“The only question on our mind was whether that would include what some people call domestic terrorism.”
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11613317/AG-Merrick-Garland-defies-Bidens-vow-end-capital-punishment.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 AG Merrick Garland defies Biden’s vow to end the death penalty