CHICAGO — Rejon Taylor hoped the election of Joe Biden, the first U.S. president to campaign on a pledge to end the death penalty, would mean a more sympathetic look at his claims that racial bias and other trial errors landed him on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana.
But two years on, Justice Department attorneys under Biden are fighting the Black man's efforts to reverse his 2008 death sentence for killing a white restaurateur as hard as they did under Donald Trump, who oversaw 13 executions in his presidency's final months.
"Every legal means they have available they're using to fight us," said the 38-year-old's lawyer, Kelley Henry. "It's business as usual."
Death penalty opponents expected Biden to act within weeks of taking office to fulfill his 2020 campaign promise to end capital punishment on the federal level and to work at ending it in states that still carry out executions. Instead, Biden has taken no steps toward fulfilling that promise.
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But it's not just inaction by Biden. An Associated Press review of dozens of legal filings shows Biden's Justice Department is fighting vigorously in courts to maintain the sentences of death row inmates, even after Attorney General Merrick Garland temporarily paused executions. Lawyers for some of the over 40 death row inmates say they've seen no meaningful changes to the Justice Department's approach under Biden and Trump.
"They're fighting back as much as they ever have," said Ruth Friedman, head of the defender unit that oversees federal death row cases. "If you say my client has an intellectual disability, the government … says, 'No, he does not.' If you say 'I'd like (new evidence),' they say, 'You aren't entitled to it.'"
Biden's Justice Dept. keeps hard line in death row cases
CHICAGO — Rejon Taylor hoped the election of Joe Biden, the first U.S. president to campaign on a pledge to end the death penalty, would mean a more sympathetic look at his claims that racial bias and other trial errors landed him on federal death row...
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