Trump backs death penalty for drug dealers; is it constitutional?
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President Donald Trump backed the death penalty for drug dealers on Saturday at a Pennsylvania rally, while his administration is reportedly studying the issue.
Trump said the United States got the idea of capital punishment for drug dealers from Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Washington Post reports.
The idea needs discussion, although “I don’t know if this country’s ready for it,” Trump said. CNN also has coverage.
Trump said people who kill just one person get the death penalty, while drug dealers can kill 5,000 people with drugs. “These people are killing our kids and they’re killing our families, and we have to do something,” Trump said.
The Post reported on Friday that Trump’s Domestic Policy Council and the U.S. Justice Department are studying policy changes that would authorize prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers.
One approach might be to make trafficking large quantities of fentanyl a capital crime because even a small amount of the drug can kill, the Post reported. The administration is also studying tougher prison sentences for large-scale dealers.
Federal law allows the death penalty for drug related murders in four situations, according to the Death Penalty Information Center: for a murder related to drug trafficking; for a drug-related murder of a law enforcement officer; for a drug-related murder involving a drive-by shooting; and for a murder committed by use of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime.
George Washington University law professor Peter Meyers said he doesn’t agree with the idea of adding more capital crimes for drug dealers, but the idea would “very likely” be constitutional.
Ohio State University law professor Douglas Berman, however, had doubts. “It is not at all clear that death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose drugs cause multiple deaths, would be constitutional,” he wrote at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog. “It is entirely clear that the issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
ABAJournal.com: “5-4 Ruling Bars Death Penalty for Child Rape”
Texas Tribune: “District attorney who prosecuted Jeff Wood now wants him off death row”
Death Penalty Information Center: “Those Executed Who Did Not Directly Kill the Victim”