WASHINGTON – US Attorney General William Barr has announced that the US federal government will resume the death penalty and execute five child murderers.
Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions starting in December for five men , all accused of murdering children.
Although the death penalty remains legal in 30 states, executions on the federal level are rare.
“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,” Barr said.
The move is likely to stir up left wing democrats on an issue that has largely lain dormant in recent years.
Most Democrats oppose capital punishment. Vice President Joe Biden this week (shifted again) to call for the elimination of the federal death penalty after years of supporting it.
By contrast, Trump has spoken often about capital punishment and his belief that executions serve as both an effective deterrent and appropriate punishment for some crimes. Including mass shootings and the killings of police officers.
“I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue,” Trump said last year after 11 people were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
He’s suggested repeatedly that the U.S. might be better off if it adopted harsh drug laws like those embraced by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Trump has been a proponent of the death penalty even 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.
“If the punishment is strong,” he wrote then, “the attacks on innocent people will stop.”
The death penalty remains legal in 30 states, but only a handful regularly conduct executions. Texas has executed 108 prisoners since 2010, far more than any other state.
Executions on the federal level have long been rare.
The government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988, the most recent of which occurred in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.
Botched State Execution
In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.
That review has been completed, Barr said Thursday, and it has cleared the way for executions to resume.
Barr approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaces the three-drug cocktail previously used in federal execution with a single drug, pentobarbital.
This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas.
Though there hasn’t been a federal execution since 2003, the Justice Department has continued to approve death penalty prosecutions and federal courts have sentenced defendants to death.
About 6 in 10 Americans favor the death penalty, according to the General Social Survey, a major trends survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago.
While a majority continue to express support for the death penalty, the share has declined steadily since the 1990s, when nearly three-quarters were in favor.
The Child Murderers who will be executed are:
- Danny Lee, who was convicted of killing a family of three, including an 8-year-old;
- Lezmond Mitchell, who beheaded a 63-year-old woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter;
- Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman;
- Alfred Bourgeois, who tortured, molested and then beat his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to death;
- Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people, including two children.
The federal government would join eight states that have executed inmates or are planning to do so this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Texas is far and away the leading state when it comes to using the death penalty, with 563 executions since capital punishment resumed in the U.S. in 1977 after a 10-year pause.
In the past 20 years, the Supreme Court has banned the execution of people who are intellectually disabled or were under 18 when they killed someone.
But even as the number of people who are sentenced to death and are executed has declined steadily for two decades, the justices have resisted any wholesale reconsideration of the constitutionality of capital punishment.
The five-justice conservative majority, which includes Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s two high court picks, has complained about delaying tactics employed by lawyers for death row inmates.
Source: Associated Press