They’re not. There are two different issues. Issue #1 is that the Biden administration believes the original sentence was imposed fairly. Issue #2 is that they’re opposed in principle to a federal death penalty. IANAL, but ISTM the two issues are legally distinct.
I consider myself a liberal, but find myself in agreement with you here. I think the standard should be “beyond a shadow of a doubt” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I also agree about facts being allowed to be introduced at the appellate level.
It does seem odd, though. Biden could commute his sentence and moot the case, or alternatively voluntarily dismiss the appeal, and not seek a new penalty phase. He has a moratorium in place on executions which will undoubtedly last his entire term, is opposed to the death penalty, yet will keep this one guy under a death sentence for…what exactly? He has the full lawful power to put his preferences into action here. He could empty the federal and military death row with the stroke of a pen.
It’s another of my criticisms of the U.S. death penalty system. It seems that we have a great propensity to talk tough about the death penalty, but in practice, very few jurisdictions (and few jurisdictions within those jurisdictions) really want to see executions.
Which I’m sure would just be great for his poll numbers.
If opposing the death penalty on principle will tank his poll numbers, then that is what should happen if he opposes the death penalty. Or vice versa.
Or maybe the public would be happy to have a death penalty, but only reserve it for the Tsarnaev, the Dylan Roof, the McVeigh.
In any event, politics in this country has gone to hell when a dual and conflicting position like this can be taken so transparently without political consequences.
I don’t see a conflicting position. Biden is all about the politically possible and not the ideal. He’s a realist, not an idealist. He knows he can push his anti-death penalty agenda only so far. He can do what he’s done now with little backlash. But to be seen doing anything to help this particular mass murderer? No, that would be a bridge too far. Especially given where Biden’s poll numbers are now. He doesn’t have the political capital to pull this off. He has other things he wants to accomplish.
This is just how the world works. The ideological purist will be unable to get anything done. Politics is about the possible. That’s why I hate it whenever progressives make the perfect the enemy of the good.
Also its not as if he has to decide right now. He could wait to see how things pan out, and then commute his sentence at the last minute if he feels strongly enough about it.
IIRC Tim Kaine when he was Governor of Virginia said he wouldn’t pardon or commute death sentences en masse just because he was morally opposed to the death penalty. He said it wasn’t a proper use of the executive power, and it was up to the legislature of the commonwealth to remove capital punishment legislatively.