Death Penalty: Up to the POTUS?

Not many headlines I see nowadays shock me. Given our current political climate and the shenanigans of Trump, few stories are surprising. However, scrolling through the notifications on my phone, an ABC News article left my jaw on the floor.

This is what I saw.

Trump calls for death penalty for NYC terror suspect, considers him an ‘enemy combatant’

Though this isn’t exactly a First Amendment issue, it highlights the weight of Trump’s words. His First Amendment right of free speech is what makes him so dangerous, and it threatens our national security. This article was shocking for a few reasons. To best organize my thoughts, I’ll present my apprehensions in a list.

  1. I have never heard of a president openly suggest the death penalty for a criminal. This could be due to the fact that I admittedly wasn’t politically active in high school.
  2. My working knowledge of the President of the United States of America is that he is the commander in chief and head of the Executive Branch. After researching presidential pardons, clemency and Obama’s actions regarding lethal injections, I found the POTUS does not have the right to impose the death penalty on an individual. Though Trump isn’t forcing the death penalty on Sayfullo Saipov (the arrested suspect), his outward stance on it is troubling.
  3. People listen to what Trump says. For us non Trump supporters, we see his remarks and extreme Twitter rants as near-laughable. However, he has supporters-supporters who believe in what he says. If the most powerful man in the world puts a target on someone, some may become more comfortable with capital punishment.
  4. This is unfair to any criminal defendant. That sounds backwards, but the POTUS is advised to never weigh in on a capital punishment decision. This is because his opinion, as I stated, could affect the defendant’s trial.

Clearly, Trump’s own advisor’s can’t influence what he chooses to say or tweet. His decision to publicize this controversial opinion reinforces the most troubling quality about him: his irrational and extreme opinions pose a threat to the national security of the U.S.

This story served as a reminder that the current political climate is becoming more and more frightening.


One thought on “Death Penalty: Up to the POTUS?

Add yours

  1. yes…. it’s quite a moment. I would note as well that although the President as an individual, has First Amendment Rights, as a President (and actually for government employees as well- See the Hatch Act), there are limits on what you can say. Good post.


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