Trump Calls for Death Penalty for Hate Crimes

The administration recently reinstated the federal death penalty

President Donald Trump / Getty Images
August 5, 2019

In the wake of multiple mass shootings over the weekend, President Donald Trump called Monday morning for legislation to execute offenders convicted of hate crimes.

In an address from the White House, Trump denounced the "glorification of violence in society" and the ease with which "troubled youths… surround themselves with a culture of violence," PBS reports. Among a bevy of other policy proposals — including packaging universal background checks with immigration reform — Trump said he would ask the Department of Justice to outline legislation to make it easier to execute hate crime offenders.

"Today, I'm also directing the Department of Justice to propose legislation ensuring that those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay," Trump said.

Trump's comments follow two shootings over the weekend, which left more than sixty people killed or injured. One, a shooting at a Wal-Mart in El Paso, Texas, appears to have been motivated by the gunman's racist views, with a four-page manifesto released prior to the attack framing the attack as a "response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas."

At the same time, Trump's call for swift and certain death for hate crime offenders follows his administration's official reinstatement of the federal death penalty following a nearly two-decade hiatus. Among the five men Attorney General William Barr intends to see put to death under the reinstatement is a white supremacist who drowned a family of three.

Trump made only brief allusion to the proposal in his speech, so details remain murky as to what the actual legislation would entail. In general, the Supreme Court has rejected the use of the death penalty for offenses other than murder, so not all hate crimes would be covered. However, any law would likely permit the death penalty for offenders like the South Carolina gunman convicted for the 2015 killing of nine worshippers at the historically black Emmanuel AME church in Charleston.

In the case of the Walmart shooter, the El Paso district attorney's office has decided to pursue the death penalty, the Texas Tribune reports.

"I know the death penalty is something very powerful, but in this occasion it's something that's necessary," El Paso District Attorney Jaime Esparza told the Tribune on Sunday.

The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas told the Tribune only that the crime meets the definition of domestic terrorism under federal law; federal charges are still pending.