Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo to US attorneys on Wednesday, covering the topic of seeking the death penalty for some classes of drug traffickers.
“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 wrote.
The memo highlights statutes where the death penalty can be used, including the use of a gun that resulted in a death during a drug trafficking crime, murder in advancing a criminal enterprise and dealing in “extremely large” quantities of drugs.
According to The Hill, the memo appears to be a push by the Trump Administration to crack down on the opioid crisis, with President Trump saying on Monday that “if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time.”
However, Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center believes that the memo could face legal hurdles.
“Under long established United States Supreme Court precedent it’s unconstitutional to use the death penalty for any offense that does not result in death,” he said.
Deaths involving opioids increased nearly 28 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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