United States Attorney General William P. Barr announced Thursday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will resume its practice of capital punishment, ending an almost two decade hiatus.
“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 in a statement.
Barr ordered the DOJ to change the three-drug protocol it uses to execute inmates by lethal injection to a one-drug protocol, as the three-drug protocol has been mired in legal challenges.
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 practice was further undermined during the tenure of Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, who personally opposed the death penalty.
The newly-approved lethal injection policy frees the federal government to begin carrying out executions. It mirrors that of Georgia, Missouri, and Texas, which use one drug, pentobarbital, in their executions.
As a result of the change, Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five federal inmates who are on death row for murdering children and the elderly.
"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," Barr said. (Politico)
This change will not affect most capital punishment cases in the U.S., however, as most are handled at the state level.