Sessions Issues Memo on Charging Death in Drug Cases

Jefferson Sessions has issued a memo to U.S. Attorneys on when to charge the death penalty in drug cases. He actually is undercutting Trump's argument for more death-eligible drug crimes because it shows how many are already on the books (thanks in large part to Joe Biden, who sheperded the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act through the Senate, that among other horrible things, expanded death-penalty eligible crimes.)

Biden’s bill put over 100,000 new cops on the street and spent $9.7 billion on the construction of new prisons. The wide-ranging bill implemented a host of liberal policies, including an assault weapon ban and the Violence Against Women Act. But it also expanded the number of crimes that qualify as death penalty cases, encouraged states to keep inmates locked in jail*, criminalized gang membership, eliminated Pell Grants for inmates, and put in place mandatory drug testing for people on supervised release. States had to implement policies that greatly reduced opportunities for parole in order to qualify for the new prison funding.

...During the 1980s he was a staunch advocate for ramping up the war on drugs. Biden devised the national “drug czar” position and worked alongside Republicans during the Ronald Reagan years to craft oppressive anti-drug laws, including co-sponsoring the law that instituted far longer prison terms for possession of crack cocaine than of powder cocaine. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander called Biden “one of the Senate’s most strident drug warriors.”


Biden's effect as architect of the 1994 bill, has had lasting effects:

[H]is crime bill increased mass incarceration by pushing states to keep felons locked away for longer periods of time. In order to receive the law’s funds dedicated to constructing new prisons, states had to adopt truth-in-sentencing laws: policies that reduce options for early parole and generally force inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their original sentences. Before the crime bill, just five states had those strict policies on the books. Within five years of the crime bill, 29 states had adopted truth-in-sentencing provisions.

...In addition to keeping people in jail longer, Biden’s crime bill also made it harder for them to reenter society once they were released by ending the Pell Grants that had allowed inmates to receive further education while imprisoned.

Biden was very proud of the 1994 bill, so much so that after the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995 when AEDPA was being debated in Congress he said:

I might add, a bill that the Presiding Officer and I voted for, the Biden crime bill, is the only reason there is a death penalty. Had we not voted for that bill, had that not passed last year, this finding of a person who committed the bombing, that person under Federal law would not be eligible to be put to death. There is no question that because of the action you and I and others took last year there is a death penalty now. So unlike the World Trade Tower, no death penalty would be there under Federal law had we not passed the Biden crime bill then.

More on Joe Biden's one man crime band with quotes from the congressional record.

Here's Joe Biden in 1995 bragging to the Senate about the bill:

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, in 1988, we passed a bill which I had authored with several others called the Death Penalty for Drug Kingpins Act. It was the first constitutional Federal ,death penalty to go on the books after 1972 when the Supreme Court invalidated the death penalty.I helped write that bill, much to the dismay of many of my liberal friends who could not understand why I was writing such a bill. It was a bill strongly promoted by President Bush, and it passed by a lopsided vote of 65 to 29, with only six Republicans voting against the bill.

Biden's 1994 Violent Crime Control Act included the death penalty for 60 existing crimes and added 24 more death eligible crimes. From the U.S. Attorneys Manual:

69. The Federal Death Penalty Act Of 1994

The Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 was enacted as Title VI of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and became effective on September 13, 1994. See Pub. L. 103-322, Title VI, Sections 60001-26, Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 1959 (codified at 18 U.S.C. 3591-3598).

In passing this legislation, Congress established constitutional procedures for imposition of the death penalty for 60 offenses under 13 existing and 28 newly-created Federal capital statutes, which fall into three broad categories: (1) homicide offenses; (2) espionage and treason; and (3) non-homicidal narcotics offenses. Drug-related killings under 21 U.S.C. 848(e) and political assassinations under 18 U.S.C. 1751 (presidential and staff) and 18 U.S.C. 351 (congressional and cabinet, etc.) are not expressly included in the Act's otherwise exhaustive listing of death penalty offenses. However, Section 3591(a)(2) of the Act expressly extends to "any other offense for which a sentence of death is provided . . . ."

Bill Clinton later turned around on the wisdom of Biden's bill. (“I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” Mr. Clinton said.) “And I want to admit it.” A decade earlier, Bill Clinton personally confirmed this in answering a question I asked him during a 2006 blogger meeting with him in New York. According to the NY Times link, Biden stands by the bill.

Of course, Clinton's turnaround doesn't change the fact the these two bills, the 1994 VCCA and AEDPA in 1995 are some of the worst in history. Here's the New York Times report analyzing the effect of AEDPA and its one year limitation on habeas claims.

Trump doesn't need Congress to pass additional laws to kill drug traffickers to solve the "opioid crisis." Thanks to Joe Biden and many other Democrats in Congress during the 80's and 90's they already have the tools. But today it is Trump-appointed fellow Republican Jefferson Sessions, in his role as Attorney General of the United States, not a Democrat, who is calling on prosecutors to use these tools. And that's just one reason why Republicans are always, always worse on crime than Democrats.

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