Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday issued a memo to U.S. Attorneys encouraging them to seek the death penalty for drug dealers, which was a key part of President Trump’s plan to combat the opioid epidemic released earlier this week.
Memo from AG Sessions to US attorneys about pursuing the death penalty in certain drug cases: “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.” pic.twitter.com/1pwQ8FVEZT
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The memo points to “appropriate cases” where the death penalty can be used, including murder related to racketeering crimes, gun deaths occurring during drug trafficking crimes and murder related to criminal enterprise.
Sessions encouraged prosecutors to pursue capital punishment in cases involving “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs.”
“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 said.
The memo follows remarks from President Trump on Monday calling for some drug dealers to be sentenced to death.
“We can have all the blue-ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on drug dealers we’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty,” Trump said in a speech in New Hampshire.
Here is Sessions’ Wednesday memo:
The opioid epidemic has inflicted an unprecedented toll of addiction, suffering, and death on communities throughout our nation. Drug overdoses, including overdoses caused by the lethal substance fentanyl and its analogues, killed more than 64,000 Americans in 2016 and now rank as the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. In the face of all of this death, we cannot continue with business as usual.
Drug traffickers, transnational criminal organizations, and violent street gangs all contribute substantially to this scourge. To combat this deadly epidemic, federal prosecutors must consider every lawful tool at their disposal. This includes designating an opioid coordinator in every district, fully utilizing the data analysis of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, as well as using criminal and civil remedies available under federal law to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for unlawful practices.
In addition, this should also include the pursuit of capital punishment in appropriate cases. Congress has passed several statutes that provide the Department with the ability to seek capital punishment for certain drug-related crimes. Among these are statutes that punish certain racketeering activities (18 U.S.C. § 1959); the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(j)); murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise (21 U.S.C. § 848(e)); and dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs (18 U.S.C. § 3591(b)(1)). 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.