Expert says death penalty opponent Biden will have options to consider for Rodriguez

President-elect Biden wants to eliminate the death penalty

FARGO (KVRR) – Could the death sentence of Alfonso Rodriguez, the man convicted of the 2003 kidnapping and murder of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, be overturned by the Biden administration?

President-elect Joe Biden has said that he opposes the death penalty and will work on legislation to eliminate the death penalty and incentivize states to abolish the death penalty. Biden says people on death row should instead serve life sentences without probation or parole.

In an interview with KVRR News, Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center, was asked whether Biden’s policy could stop Rodriguez’s execution.

“There are a number of things that a president can do without congressional authority, but unless there is a bill to repeal the death penalty, a president cannot actually end the death penalty” Dunham said.

However, Biden would still have a series of options that could stop federal executions, including Rodriguez’s.

“The first thing he could do is stop executions, and that is just an executive decision. He can do that informally, or he can do that formally by declaring a moratorium. That doesn’t end the death penalty. It simply ends executions during (Biden’s) term in office” Dunham said.

Dunham says Biden would also have the power to commute Rodriguez’s sentence to life in prison, or commute the sentence of anyone facing the federal death penalty.

“When it comes to the federal death penalty, a president can grant a reprieve, which would get rid of a current death warrant, a president could grant a commutation, which would reduce a sentence, or could grant a pardon, which would do away with a conviction.”

Attorneys for Rodriguez claim that he’s not mentally competent for the death penalty.

U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who led the prosecution against Rodriguez, declined to comment.

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