Biden's silence on executions adds to death penalty disarray

Federal Executions Biden

CHICAGO (AP) — Activists widely expected Joe Biden to take swift action against the death penalty as the first sitting president to oppose capital punishment, especially since an unprecedented spate of executions by his predecessor ended just days before Biden took office.

Instead, the White House has been mostly silent.

Biden hasn't said whether he'd back a bill introduced by fellow Democrats to strike the death penalty from U.S. statutes. He also hasn’t rescinded Trump-era protocols enabling federal executions to resume and allowing prisons to use firing squads if necessary, something many thought he’d do on day one.

And this week, his administration asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the Boston Marathon bomber’s original death sentence.

The hands-off approach in Washington is adding to disarray around the death penalty nationwide as pressure increases in some conservative states to find ways to continue executions amid shortages of the lethal-injection drugs. Worse, some longtime death penalty observers say, is that Biden's silence risks sending a message that he's OK with states adopting alternative execution methods.

“Biden’s lack of action is unconscionable,” said Ashley Kincaid Eve, a lawyer and activist who protested outside the Terre Haute, Indiana, prison where the federal inmates were executed. “This is the easiest campaign promise to keep, and the fact he refuses to keep it ... is political cowardice.”

His cautious approach demonstrates