Representative Adriano Espaillat Introduces The Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2021

January 15, 2021
Press Release


NEW YORK, NY - Today, Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) released the following statement on the introduction of his comprehensive legislation to abolish the federal death penalty.

“The death penalty is a cruel relic of the past, and should have no place in our society,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “A government should not have the power to take the life of another person, and the death penalty is a deeply flawed and inherently unjust system.

“The death penalty is fundamentally racist, and its roots can be traced directly to America’s terrible history of lynching. Over 42 percent of those on death row and 34 percent of those executed in America are Black, but only 13 percent of America’s population is black. Furthermore, those convicted of killing White victims are seventeen times more likely to be sentenced to death than would be if the victim was Black. The racial disparities in the death penalty are beyond the pale, and we must amend this racist legacy of our criminal justice system," Espaillat continued.

“Human life is invaluable, and every human life is sacred. Yet, the death penalty forgets a core tenet of humanity – human beings change. Humans have an immense capacity to learn, to heal, and to grow. Executing someone denies this principle and gives no course for a person to grow. A person is not defined by the worst choice they made, but the death penalty only views someone’s life through this narrow lens. And what’s more, it undermines the core vision upon which this nation was founded. I am proud to introduce this legislation, and believe it is a critical step towards a more righteous, equitable, and just society for all Americans,” he concluded.

The Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act of 2021 has been endorsed by more than 200 organizations nationwide, including:  NAACP, ACLU, Amnesty International USA, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Innocence Project, National Black Justice Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Death Penalty Action, 8th Amendment Project, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Vera Institute of Justice, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Southern Center for Human Rights, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Equal Justice USA, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, Grassroots Leadership, Drug Policy Alliance.

Click here for the full list of organizations who have pledged their support of this bill. 

"We are past-time as a Nation ending the practice of killing Americans to prove killing is wrong. We must end this barbaric and inhumane practice now. We have learned that executing Americans continues to be administered in a definitively racist, and classes manner. The financial cost is exorbitant, and there is no evidence that the practice helps reduce murders or other crimes. More African Americans than any other race or ethnicity are erroneously executed and either freed or mistakenly executed. This collateral damage must stop as it is actually more expensive to sentence someone to life in prison than executing them. Thank you Representative Espaillat for demonstrating the moral imperative and we look forward to engaging our membership throughout the United States to pass this crucial legislation." – Hilary O. Shelton, Director, NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy

"These past seven months, we watched the Trump administration plow through 12 executions, which were exceptionally dangerous and inhumane, during a pandemic that has already taken far too many lives. But the federal death penalty — like the death penalty in the states — has always been racist, error-prone, and arbitrary. The only way to turn the page on this dark moment in U.S. history is to repeal the federal death penalty once and for all.” – Cynthia Roseberry, Deputy Director of Policy, Justice Division, ACLU

"The National Black Justice Coalition believes the death penalty is an ancient idea that should be left in the last millennium. There have been too many cases of innocent people murdered on death row due to gross negligence and inequities in our criminal justice system. Our government should not decide who is "redeemable" especially when the facts of the case are too often wrong when it comes to people of color and other marginalized communities." – Victoria Kirby York, Deputy Executive Director, National Black Justice Coalition

“Throughout history, Black people targeted by law enforcement and without the guarantee of a fair trial have disproportionately wound up on death row, especially in the Deep South states like Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi.” – Southern Poverty Law Center

“We are pleased to see so much interest and enthusiasm to move forward with this legislation. As we look to our nation’s critical mission of reinforcing and expanding our commitment to a diverse, vibrant representative democracy where we invest in people, healthy neighborhoods and communities and insist on government accountability, capital punishment has no place in that future. We thank Representative Espaillat for his leadership, vision and commitment to justice.” – Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director, National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

“Death Penalty Action is honored to stand with Rep. Espaillat, who has never hesitated to emphatically oppose the death penalty. Death Penalty Action was created to mobilize people to action, and we urge everyone to use the tools at DeathPenaltyAction.org to contact their members of congress to request support for ending the federal and military death penalty laws in the first 100 days of the new Administration.” – Abraham Bonowitz, Director, Death Penalty Action

"Repealing the death penalty is an essential step to begin to address the racist legacy of our criminal legal system." – Laura Porter, Executive Director, 8th Amendment Project

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Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the north-west Bronx. First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress. Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities. He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves as the Second Vice Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip. Representative Espaillat also currently serves as a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. To find out more about Rep. Espaillat, visit online at https://espaillat.house.gov/.

Media inquiries: Candace Person at Candace.Person@mail.house.gov