Death penalty: Supreme Court rejects challenge to federal executions by lethal injection


In 2019, Attorney General William Barr moved to reinstate the federal death penalty, underscoring the rigid philosophy of law and order of the Trump administration. At that time, he ordered the head of the Bureau of Prisons to execute five inmates, who he said represented the “worst criminals”.

The Bureau of Prisons adopted a new lethal injection protocol consisting of a single drug, pentobarbital.

Federal inmates involved in the appeal were Daniel Lewis Lee, who killed a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl; Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl; Alfred Bourgeois, who tortured and killed his own 2-year-old daughter; and Dustin Lee Honken, who shot and killed five people, including two girls.

Although the order was not signed, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have heard the challenge.

“The prisoners in these cases have other challenges that have not yet been fully decided, but this was perhaps the central legal objection to Barr’s reinstatement of the federal death penalty,” said Steve Vladeck, an analyst with the CNN Supreme Court and professor at the University of Texas. The law’s school. “Today’s ruling removes a major obstacle to the resumption of federal executions, but not the only one.”

A district judge blocked the execution of executions, arguing that the protocol conflicts with the Federal Death Penalty Law, which requires adherence to a state’s execution method. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan of the District of Columbia circuit suspended executions and ruled that a delay would not harm the government, particularly as she has waited several years to announce a new protocol.

Chutkan said that the public interest is not served by “executing individuals before they have had the opportunity to resort to legitimate procedures to challenge the legality of their executions.”

The prisoners’ lawyers argued that the government is trying to push the issue forward despite the fact that it took eight years to create a new execution protocol.

“From the moment it announced the protocol on July 25, 2019, the government has expedited the process to carry out executions without a significant judicial review of the legality and constitutionality of the new enforcement procedures,” said Cate Stetson, attorney for the inmates

A federal appeals court reversed the district court.

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