Two years after President Joe Biden’s election, Rejon Taylor is still fighting to reverse his death sentence for killing a white restaurateur, despite Biden’s campaign pledge to end the death penalty.
Taylor’s efforts to appeal his 2008 death sentence on the grounds of racial bias and trial errors have been met with the same resistance from the Justice Department attorneys under Biden as they were under Donald Trump. Although Biden’s Justice Department has not authorized any new death penalty cases and Attorney General Merrick Garland has temporarily paused executions, the department has been fighting to uphold death sentences for inmates on federal death row.
The Justice Department confirmed that since Biden’s inauguration, it hasn’t agreed with a single claim of racial bias or errors that could lead to the overturning of a federal death sentence. Lawyers for some of the more than 40 death row inmates say they’ve seen no meaningful changes to the Justice Department’s approach under Biden and Trump.
The death penalty is a thorny political issue. While Americans increasingly oppose capital punishment, it is deeply entrenched. Biden hasn’t taken any steps to fulfill his campaign promise to end capital punishment on the federal level or to work toward ending it in states that still carry out executions. Moreover, as Biden eyes a 2024 run, it’s unlikely he’ll make capital punishment a signature issue given his silence on it as president.
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