AG Barr Orders Federal Death Penalty To Be Reinstated

Attorney General William Barr Gives Opening Remarks At Cyber Security Conference

The Department of Justice announced Thursday that Attorney General William Barr has ordered the federal government to resume executing federal death row inmates, nearly two decades after the last execution overseen by the federal government.

“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 in a statement. “Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.”

"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," he added.

The executions of five inmates convicted of murder and other crimes have been scheduled to take place in December 2019 and January 2020 at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, in Terre Haute, Indiana. The five prisoners were identified as Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, and Dustin Lee Honken. The Justice Department provided a rundown of each prisoner and the crimes they'd been convicted of in the release. Each of the inmates had "exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies, and currently no legal impediments prevent their executions."

The last federal execution was carried out in 2003. Currently, there are 62 individuals on federal death-row awaiting an execution date, according to data from the Death Penalty Information Center.

The department also announced that they would be replacing the previous three-drug cocktail with one drug, pentobarbital.

Death penalty laws were outlawed by the Supreme Court in the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision. That decision did not outlaw the death penalty entirely and prompted state and federal governments to draft new laws governing executions. The federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 and expanded by Congress in 1994. It was not used until 2001.

Photo: Getty Images

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