Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a memo Wednesday instructing federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in “appropriate” drug cases — making good on President Donald Trump’s call for drug traffickers to receive harsher penalties in the fight against the opioid crisis.
“To combat this deadly epidemic, federal prosecutors must consider every lawful tool at their disposal,” Sessions wrote in the memo to U.S. attorneys. “This should also include the pursuit of capital punishment in appropriate cases.”
Sessions outlined appropriate cases as those involving “certain racketeering activities,” “the use of a firearm resulting in death during a drug trafficking crime,” “murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise” and “dealing in extremely large quantities of drugs.”
“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 added.
Sessions’ memo comes after Trump called for prosecutors to seek the death penalty against drug traffickers, which he said would be a deterrent to those selling opioids.
“We have to get tough on those people, because we can have all the blue-ribbon committees we want, but if we don’t get tough on the drug dealers, we’re wasting our time,” Trump said Monday during a speech in New Hampshire. ”Just remember that. We’re wasting our time. And that toughness includes the death penalty.”
Experts say that as long as there is demand for opioids, drug dealers will meet that demand — and the death penalty won’t be enough of a deterrent to stop the crisis.