Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued a memo advising U.S. attorneys on the use of capital punishment in drug-related prosecutions.
It states that Congress has passed several statutes to give DoJ 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)),” the memo states.
Sessions’ guidance follows President Trump’s announcement on Monday that it was time to get tough on drug dealers to fight the opioid epidemic, and that capital punishment should be an option to use against the “big pushers.”
In the memo, Sessions went on to say that the opioid epidemic has caused unprecedented suffering, addiction and death, and that 64,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2016 and it is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
“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,” Sessions said. “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.”