The US and the death penalty


Sir, – Prof Ian O’Donnell wonders if the election of Joe Biden will lead to an end to the disgraceful practice of the death penalty (Letters, November 26th).

Based on Mr Biden’s record in office to date, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

For the first 45 years of his political career, Mr Biden was a strong supporter of the death penalty. Such was his enthusiasm for the practice, that in 1994 he authored the Federal Death Penalty Act which created 60 new death penalty offences.

He finally realised the error of his ways in June 2019, and now says he opposes the practice. By enormous coincidence, this change of heart occurred just six weeks after announcing his candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination.

Among the states with the greatest number of executions are Virginia, Florida, and Georgia – all key swing states – and Texas, a state which the Democrats hold forlorn hopes of bringing back into their column. Is it remotely likely that they will offend the voters in these states by trying to abolish the practice?

Mr Biden now holds policy positions on the death penalty, abortion, climate change, and religious freedom which are diametrically at odds with those he held just three years ago. Anyone who expects him to enact radical changes in these areas is likely to be sorely disappointed. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 3.