Biden accused of hypocrisy as his administration seeks death penalty for New York terrorist

Joe Biden - REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
Joe Biden - REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

President Joe Biden has been accused of hypocrisy after his administration pushed for the death penalty in the case of a terrorist convicted on Thursday in New York.

Sayfullo Saipov, who used a truck to kill eight people on a Manhattan bike path in 2017, was found guilty of murder and terrorism charges by a jury in the first federal death penalty trial of Biden’s administration.

After finding Saipov, an Uzbek national, guilty of committing murder with the goal of joining the militant group Islamic State, the Manhattan jury will return in early February to consider whether the death penalty is an appropriate punishment.

The US Department of Justice sought the death penalty for Saipov despite a July 2021 moratorium on federal executions as it reviews the practice.

Chris Geidner, a legal expert at Law Dork, tweeted:

Two years into his presidency, Mr Biden, who became the first US leader to openly oppose the death penalty and campaigned on a pledge to abolish it, has taken few substantial steps to live up to his campaign promise.

Advocates for abolishing capital punishment say his silence in the latest case is deafening.

“The Biden administration appears to have no understanding that inaction if it continues, will result in executions,” said Robert Dunham, who heads the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, DC. “The Biden administration executions will be carried out by a future administration. But they will be Biden executions.”

During his run for president, Mr Biden’s criminal justice platform included a pledge, laid out on his website, to “work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example”.

Those convicted of the most egregious federal crimes should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole, it said.

In a comment to Associated Press on the Saipov case, the White House said the president “has long talked about his concerns about how the death penalty is applied and whether it is consistent with the values fundamental to our sense of justice and fairness”.

“The DOJ makes decisions about prosecutions independently,” it said. “It would be inappropriate for us to weigh in on specific cases underway, but we believe it’s important for victims, survivors, and their families to get justice.”