WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland told his Senate confirmation hearing on Monday he would work to protect the Justice Department from political interference. Here are some quotes from the hearing
Garland told Congress he used to support the death penalty, including the execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a case he prosecuted. He said his views have evolved due to concerns about executing innocent people and its disparate impact on communities of color.
“I have had a great pause about the death penalty. I am very concerned about the large number of exonerations that have occurred through DNA evidence and otherwise,” he said.
“The data is clear that it has an enormously disparate impact on Black Americans and members of communities of color.”
Garland revealed he will not seek to prioritize marijuana possession prosecutions.
“We can focus our attention on violent crimes and other crimes that put great danger in our society, and not allocate our resources to some things like marijuana possession.”
ON SENTENCING REFORM
“We should do as, as President Biden has suggested, seek the elimination of mandatory minimum. So that we once again give authority to district judges and trial judges to make determinations based on all of the sentencing factors that judges normally apply.”
“We don’t have to seek highest possible offense with the highest possible sentence. … Legislatively, we should look at equalizing … what’s known as the crack powder ratio, which has had an enormously disproportionate impact on communities of color.”
‘DEFUNDING THE POLICE’
“President Biden has said he does not support defunding the police, and neither do I.”
“I do really and President Biden believes in giving resources to police departments to help them reform and gain the trust of their communities.”
ON HOLDING POLICE DEPARTMENTS ACCOUNTABLE
“I think police accountability is an essential element of the ability of a police department to have credibility with the community.”
“Congress has given the Justice Department the authority and the responsibility to investigate patterns or practices of law enforcement and…conduct that violate the Constitution and laws of the United States… It is an important tool the department has for ensuring accountability.”
Garland said he supports the use consent decrees as needed to hold police departments accountable.
“Where they are necessary to ensure accountability, it’s very important that we use that tool.”
ON CRACKING DOWN ON THE PROLIFERATION OF CHEMICAL LOOK-ALIKES OF FENTANYL:
“To be honest, I’m not no chemist (sic). This is one of the reasons I ended up being a lawyer, instead of a doctor. But I would need to look at what would be proposed. But I do understand the scope of this problem, and I’m in favor of doing something, either by scheduling, or legislation, if I’m confirmed, that would address the problem that you’re talking about, which is an enormous problem for enforcement.”
Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Alistair Bell