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Sessions Issues Memo on Seeking Death Penalty for Drug Dealers

by Countable | 3.16.18

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

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(Photo Credit: davidhills / iStock)

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