AG Barr Reinstates Federal Death Penalty after 16-Year Hiatus

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield S.C. The Justice Department says it will carry out executions of federal death row inmates for the first time since 2003. The anno

There has been a moratorium-like delay on executions of federal inmates (the last federal execution was in 2003), due to the DOJ reviewing its lethal injection procedures.

The Death Penalty Information Center says there have been three such executions between 1988 and 2018.

Lee was found guilty on May 4, 1999, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas of several offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and was sentenced to death. While a majority continue to express support for the death penalty, the share has declined steadily since the 1990s, when almost three-quarters were in favor.

The federal death penalty is rare compared to executions carried out by state governments, but US President Donald Trump is known to be a fan of the death penalty, suggesting previous year that it should be brought back "into vogue".

The Justice Department was conducting a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs, which was commissioned by former President Barack Obama in 2014.

At the state level, executions have declined greatly in recent years compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Other combinations of drugs have faced significant legal challenges. Lee will be the first one to be executed, with the date set for December 9, 2019.

"Given the problems that undermine the fairness and reliability of Danny Lee's conviction and death sentence, the government should not move forward with his execution", he said.

"The trial judge, the lead prosecutor, and members of the victims' family all oppose executing him and believe a life sentence is appropriate", Moon said.

There are now 62 federal inmates on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Alfred Bourgeois is now scheduled for a January 13, 2020, execution after his 2004 sentencing for the torture, sexual molestation and murder of his toddler daughter.

The federal government's decision runs counter to a downward trend in capital punishment seen in many states across the country.

Trump was a vocal proponent of the death penalty for decades before taking office, most notably in 1989 when he took out full-page advertisements in New York City newspapers urging elected officials to "BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY" following the rape of a jogger in Central Park.

Since then all executions have been carried out by states.

At the same time, DPIC executive director Robert Dunham told NPR, the death penalty remains strong in some US states. While ruling the death penalty unconstitutional for those convicted of crimes committed as juveniles and for the mentally impaired, it has not ruled the death penalty itself in violation of the Eight Amendment to the US Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

"I think the obligation that you look at, is the obligation of the government to society", said Rychlak.

The US federal government's move to resume executions after a 16-year hiatus has drawn sharp criticism from rights groups and leading Democrats.



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