(TMU) — Attorney General William Barr announced on Thursday that the federal government will resume capital punishment after a 16-year-long de facto moratorium within the Department of Justice, in sharp contrast to the national trend of phasing out the death penalty on the state level.
Currently, only 25 states have the death penalty on the books and only eight carried out executions last year.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the president,” Barr said.
Attorney General William Barr is Catholic, a member of the Knights of Columbus and previously on the board of the Catholic Info Center. Pope Francis last year called the death penalty "inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person” https://t.co/s6wHeRRYvg
— Michael J. O'Loughlin (@MikeOLoughlin) July 25, 2019
Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons on Thursday to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates and the U.S. Department of Justice has already announced the names of the first inmates they intend to kill.
According to the announcement, the five people have been “convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society—children and the elderly.” The executions will take place at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
“The justice department upholds the rule of law and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
Those scheduled to be put to death include Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist who murdered a family of three in 1999 before throwing them into the Illinois Bayou in Arkansas; Lezmond Mitchell, who stabbed a 63-year-old grandmother to death before forcing her granddaughter to drive 30 to 40 miles with him, next to her dead grandmother, before murder her as well; Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl; Alfred Bourgeois, who tortured and killed his one 2-year-old child; and Dustin Lee Honken, who shot and killed five people, including two children.
Prior to the 16-year-long moratorium, the federal government carried out only three executions after the death penalty was reinstated in 1988. Legal experts say that executions won’t be reinstated overnight and may not even take place by this December.
Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said:
“Saying that you are going to adopt a protocol is not the same thing as having a protocol properly adopted through the required administrative procedures. You can’t just say it and have it happen. There is a legal process for a protocol to go into effect and there is a legal process for challenging the protocol.”
Dunham expects opposition.
It is not yet known whether the federal government will manage to obtain the drugs required to perform lethal injections amidst a nationwide shortage. Some states have recently experimented with unreliable cocktails of chemicals in an attempt to circumvent the shortage, leading to botched executions and lawsuits.
There are currently 62 inmates on federal death row, including Dylann Roof, the white supremacist responsible for killing nine black parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.
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