Jeff Sessions once supported mandatory death sentences for drug dealers
Written By Emily Gray Brosious Posted: 01/25/2017, 10:27am
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the U.S. Attorney General January 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
It’s no secret that President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is not on board with marijuana reform efforts.
But earlier this month during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy revisited a particularly troubling chapter of Sessions’ drug policy record, asking him to explain his past support for imposing mandatory death sentences on people convicted twice for selling illegal drugs — including marijuana.
“Well, I’m not sure under what circumstances I said that,” Sessions told the committee.
In 1996, Sessions, then serving as Alabama’s attorney general, supported a state bill proposed by then-Gov. Fob James to establish mandatory minimum death sentences for people convicted on a second drug trafficking charge.
The Huntsville Times reported in February 1996 that Sessions had “praised” the proposed trio of bills designed to fight crime by “ending parole, eliminating part of the appeals in death penalty sentences, and executing people twice convicted of being drug kingpins.”
The bill never passed, likely because the U.S. Supreme Court had outlawed mandatory death sentences in 1987. Still, Sessions’ support for such a measure at that time calls into question his understanding and ability to uphold constitutional law.
Per The Conversation:
“At his nomination hearing, Sessions said that he currently does not support mandatory executions for drug trafficking. But the fact that he once supported it in direct violation of established constitutional law is deeply troubling, especially in light of his direct knowledge, as Alabama attorney general, of the prosecutorial misconduct, racial bias and systematically weak defense lawyering that permeated the state’s capital system. As the state’s top attorney between 1995 and 1997, Sessions sought to uphold more than 40 death sentences, even in the most questionable circumstances.”