Former President Donald Trump will promote the use of the death penalty as a major part of his 2024 presidential campaign, pushing for the execution of individuals convicted of non-capital crimes and the implementation of old and brutal means of killing them.
Research shows that the death penalty does not deter crime. It is disproportionately used in sentencing of individuals from communities of color, and is demonstrably problematic for a variety of other reasons, not the least of which is that a significant proportion of people who are sentenced to death are, in fact, innocent of the crime for which they have been convicted.
Yet sources close to Trump indicate that he will also promote the idea of executing individuals convicted of drug crimes as well.
Rolling Stone reports that Trump has been asking his campaign advisers questions about the death penalty, including what they think about reintroducing firing squads. Trump has also discussed use of the guillotine — which hasn’t been used as a form of capital punishment by any nation since the 1970s — sources speaking to the magazine said. Further, the former president has indicated his support for putting those convicted of drug crimes to death, a practice that experts say violates international law and that doesn’t work to deter such activities.
“The former president believes this would help put the fear of God into violent criminals,” one of the sources said. “He wanted to do some of these things when he was in office, but for whatever reasons didn’t have the chance.”
A spokesperson for Trump called their reporting “ridiculous” and “fake news.” Yet Trump’s own public statements on the issue in the past, and his actions in the final months of his tenure as president, when he drastically increased the rate of federal executions, align with this new reporting. In fact, more federal executions took place in Trump’s final month as president than the total number in the decades preceding his presidency, one watchdog group has also noted.
Trump’s announcement for his 2024 presidential run mentioned expanding use of the death penalty, including for those convicted of drug crimes.
While a number of states still have the firing squad as a possible option for capital crimes, only one state, Utah, has used it in the past century. The practice is considered by many to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment, which is illegal under the terms of the U.S. Constitution.
A moratorium on all executions at the federal level was reinstated in 2021 by Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Trump’s expected opponent in the 2024 presidential election, current President Joe Biden, has campaigned on abolishing the death penalty altogether. Yet one form of the death penalty — death by incarceration — still remains in place, and Biden has not expressed any opinion on that issue.
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