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Sessions Issues Memo on Seeking Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

by Countable | Updated on 3.21.18

UPDATE - March 21, 2018: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a memo to U.S. attorneys about when they should seek the death penalty in drug trafficking cases.

  • The move follows President Donald Trump’s proposal to use capital punishment to help combat the opioid epidemic.

  • “I strongly encourage federal prosecutors to use these statutes, when appropriate, to aid in our continuing fight against drug trafficking and the destruction it causes in our nation,” Sessions wrote.

  • Sessions outlined the statutes where the death penalty can be used, including “certain racketeering activities,” “the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime,” and “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs.”

  • The death penalty has, so far, never been used for the dealing of “extremely large” quantities of drugs.

Countable's original story appears below.


Trump Proposes Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

What’s the story?

  • As part of his plan to combat the opioid crisis, President Donald Trump is proposing the use of the death penalty to crack down on drug dealers.

  • Earlier this month, at the White House opioid summit, the president said:

"The administration's going to be rolling out policy over the next three weeks, and it'll be very, very strong. Some countries have a very, very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty. And by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do. So we're going to have to be very strong on penalties.”

Is this legal?

  • Federal law currently allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty in drug-related murders.

  • As CBS reported, Trump’s plan “will call for changing mandatory minimums for drug traffickers and include language urging prosecutors to seek the death penalty as an option for drug dealers in fatal opioid overdose cases.”

What are members of Congress saying?

  • Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) welcomed the news. “I’m all in on the capital punishment side for those offenses that would warrant that. Including drug cases. Yep.”

  • “I would have to strongly evaluate and look at any proposal like that,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) told Politico, which broke the story. “I don’t know if the president was serious or just said it off the cuff… It’s a big issue when you decide to bring a capital case or pass a law that allows for capital punishment.”

  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) criticized the move, saying in a statement that “we will not incarcerate or execute our way out of the opioid epidemic.”

What do you think?

Is capital punishment the right response to the opioid epidemic? Or do you agree we will not “execute our way out of the opioid epidemic”? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

(Photo Credit: davidhills / iStock)

Countable

Written by Countable

Leave a comment
(362)
  • Robert
    03/17/2018
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    I think we should have the death penalty for narcissistic egotistical morons but that doesn’t make it right either.

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  • Laura
    03/17/2018
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    Wait? What? Not only is this barbaric and completely insane but it also an obvious plot against the poor with serious racist and dangerous totalitarian overtones. Never in a million years did I believe I’d be put in a position by my government to feel compelled to stand up for the rights of drug dealers. But here we are. Holy crap. We are being led by an out of control lunatic who feels more empowered every day to say and do whatever the freak he wants. If you haven’t read ‘1984’ recently you might want to dust off that old copy and give it another read. Or if nonfiction is your thing you should visit your local library (while they still exist) and pick up one of the many outstanding works on the rise of Hitler and Nazi Germany. This is the direction we’re heading at an alarming pace. And it isn’t just this latest menacing proposal by the orange demon who wants to be a dictator. It’s all of it, happening on so many fronts at once that we are caught up in a chaotic swirl and can’t keep up. Please wake up America before it’s too late.

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  • Carol
    03/17/2018
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    You must know that “drug dealers” is code for young men of color. White supremacists are cheering. Just say NO to any expansion of the death penalty.

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  • Anna
    03/17/2018
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    So, Donnie Dumbass, you're going to start with the CEO's of big pharma? They're the worst offenders!

    Like (155)
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  • Socorro
    03/17/2018
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    I do NOT support the death penalty, under any circumstances. But putting that aside, is the Administration & Congress prepared to include drug companies & their management in their definition of “drug dealers”? Big pharma has definitely played a role in the making of this disaster.

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  • Zaq120
    03/17/2018
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    Pharmaceutical’s kill more than all the illegal drugs put together

    Like (85)
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  • KansasTamale
    03/17/2018
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    Drug Dealers need to be dealt with harshly, but that goes way too far & dealers wouldn’t be a problem if people didn’t have the compulsion to use drugs. It is a systemic problem of poverty & disjointedness in the country because people feel left out of the American Dream. The Republicans have created & continue to add to this feeling by their tax bill that gave huge tax cuts to the very rich & Cut deductions for the rest of the country. They are also partly responsible for this situation with drugs by continuing to make marijuana a drug equal to heroine and crack. It should be treated like tobacco & alcohol. There’s a lot more to look at here than the death penalty for drug dealers.

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  • Leo
    03/17/2018
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    Will he endorse vigilante justice like Duterte? Are we seriously following the lead of a man who admires a petty wannabe third world dictator?

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  • Andy1
    03/17/2018
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    What else are we waiting for him to do or say? He needs to be removed by any means necessary.

    Like (54)
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  • Pat
    03/17/2018
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    Trump wants the death penalty for drug pushers? So, does that include the pharmaceutical companies and the doctors who quickly subscribe them? Or is that just for the inner city drug pushers who may just happen to be Black or Latino? Many people I know would like to see the death penalty for dirty politicians who want to make money off their government position and give their inexperienced family jobs.

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  • Jennifer
    03/17/2018
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    This proposed law is so fraught with potential for abuse, just look to the civil forfeiture laws to see how they are abused. The DEA has been militarized and spent billions on a failed “war on drugs.” Anyone allowing a friend or family member to sleep on their couch or answers the phone, taking a message could be broadened as a conspiracy to distribute drugs. How about witnesses to drug transactions...”If I’m going to get the death penalty just for selling, then why leave a witness?” Although well meaning to stop the scourge, I say No! There is too much potential for unintended consequences. Unless you know how to stop the demand and are going to include doctors who knowingly over-prescribe, and BigPharma execs who pushed the narrative that opioids were not addictive, and are also willing to put to death some moron who sells a dime bag of pot for gas money. We obviously learned nothing from prohibition.

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  • burrkitty
    03/17/2018
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    When did the USA become the Philippines?!?!? This is not the third world!!! Duterte may have given carte blanche for vigilantism, but this is not that place. Why dose anyone support this administration who admirers petty dictators and ruthless despots!! For shame!

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  • Christoph
    03/17/2018
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    At what point will the spineless republicans in congress realize that they elected a wannabe dictator and have been protecting him this whole time. Checks and balances dont work if they refuse to be a check. Most dealers are also addicts. They need treatment, not death. I shouldnt have to explain to republicans that they should care about other people. Are you guys just lacking in basic human empathy? Lets see if I got this right, you want to stop women from accessing important medical care. You want to strip healthcare from millions of people. You gave the richest in our country a huge tax break, while giving everyone else a couple dollars. You want to reduce food stamps, and raise medicine costs. You refuse to raise the minimum wage even though people cant live on it. Housing costs rise all over the country and you do nothing. Children get shot in school, over and over and over and you do nothing but accept NRA blood money. You rip families apart and terrorize immigrants. How is any of this ethical? How does anyone support this? G O P- Greed Over People. Disgusting.

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  • Timnyc
    03/17/2018
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    Really... this and the war on drugs is a total failure...This is already a law and hasn’t worked so far ? How about funding the other proposals on addiction treatment ..which is what every health care provider does with drug addicted people that would be a good start for the millions of families in pain...

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  • Zaq120
    03/17/2018
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    Then throw the pharmaceutical people in jail. Make more legal. Tax and control like liquor. School kids can get drugs easier than liquor. People would be more at ease on calling police and reporting serious crimes, also they would be more inclined to visit doctors.

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  • OlderNWiser
    03/18/2018
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    What does this impaired, corrupt, dictator wannabe have to do to be removed from office? He has always had mafia connections, always been a con artist, loudly proclaims his admiration for ruthless thug dictators, misses no opportunity to express his virulent racism or bully anyone he can, keeps floating ideas of entirely ending Constitutional rights and of his personally executing people at will. His behavior is straight out of the Nazi playbook even while it appears he is Putin’s boy. Execute drug dealers? Poverty and desperation already does that. Let’s try the treatment Reagan dismantled. And, get him out before it’s too late. He is destroying our values and our country.

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  • Dayzee
    03/17/2018
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    Let's consider, trump still wanted the Central Park 5 put to death even after DNA evidence cleared them. Now consider, if trump had been POTUS at that time, would he have bullied, pressured, threatened, manipulated & fired till he got his way? Trumps always been a dick. Only difference now is, he's got the power of the Oval at his disposal and he's utilizing it now as s tool of vengeance. We're a country that promotes human rights. We don't stomp them. We're a country that sets the example of good, the right thing to do. We've learned over the past 2 decades being penalistic with drug addicts doesn't work. Is he desiring killing the Pablo Escobars of the US, or the corner $5 crack hit guy? Or does he actually mean holding Big Pharma to account for all the deaths they're responsible for? It seems all of trumps dreamt up policies have an air of Old Testament to them. Perhaps that's trumps view of a Christian? He does need to retain their support. At any rate, the guys insane and shouldn't be making any policies that impact the life or death of anything or anyone. The guys nuts.

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  • Mary
    03/17/2018
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    Executing drug dealers will create a new problem and nothing to stop the opioid crises. When we get serious about saving lives, we only need to look to Switzerland and Portugal. There is no room for politics and lobbyists in the solution.

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  • BeStrong
    03/17/2018
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    If there was a death penalty for saying whatever stupid sh!t that pops into your head, this wannabe autocrat would have shirked this mortal coil a long time ago. While Mr Trump has the bully pulpit, we are a democracy, not an autocracy. No Mr Trump, as much as you love your autocrats, like ‘kill em in the streets’ Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, we don’t do that sh!t here. No.

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  • Lando
    03/17/2018
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    Let’s make one thing ABUNDANTLY clear: a death penalty for drug dealers that’s masked as caring about the “opioid crisis” (read: a drug addiction problem that affects white people that doesn’t warrant a “war on drugs”) is NOT for the opioid crisis. If it were, it would be targeting big pharma and doctors - not drug dealers. They are targeting drug dealers as a means to further the war on black and brown communities and LITERALLY EXTERMINATE that population. However, they are masking it as caring about the opioid crisis. Do not let this pass. The minute America began treating drug addiction as criminal (translation: when black and brown communities suffer from addiction) rather than rehabilitative and a health crisis (translation: when white communities are affected), this path was coming. The “war on drugs” has repeatedly been proven to be an outright attack on black and brown communities, and this law would only support the prison industrial complex that is funding [45]. Fight this.

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