AP

US government will execute inmates for first time since 2003

Jul 25, 2019, 3:15 PM

FILE - In this March 17, 2003 file photo, the guard tower flanks the sign at the entrance to the U....

FILE - In this March 17, 2003 file photo, the guard tower flanks the sign at the entrance to the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of the last federal execution. The Justice Department says it will carry out executions of federal death row inmates for the first time since 2003. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States will resume executing federal death-row inmates, the Justice Department said Thursday, ending an informal, two-decade moratorium even as the nation sees a broad shift away from capital punishment.

Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions starting in December for five men, all accused of murdering children.

“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 fresh interest in an issue that has largely lain dormant in recent years, adding a new front to the culture battles that President Donald Trump already is waging on matters such as abortion and immigration in the lead-up to the 2020 elections.
Most Democrats oppose capital punishment. Vice President Joe Biden this week shifted to call for the elimination of the federal death penalty after years of supporting it.

By contrast, Trump has spoken often — and sometimes wistfully — 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, under whom thousands of drug suspects have been killed by police.

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. “If the punishment is strong,” he wrote then, “the attacks on innocent people will stop.”

Five Harlem teenagers were convicted in the Central Park case but had their convictions vacated years later after another man confessed to the rape. More than a decade after their exoneration, the city agreed to pay the so-called Central Park Five $41 million, a settlement Trump blasted as “outrageous.”

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.

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.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said he was concerned the process for resuming executions was rushed.

“The federal government hasn’t carried out any executions in 15 years and so that raises serious questions about the ability to carry out the executions properly,” he said.

There are 61 people on the federal death row, according to Death Row USA, a quarterly report of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Some of the highest-profile inmates on federal death row include Dylann Roof, who killed nine black church members during a Bible study session in 2015 at a South Carolina church, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who set off bombs near the Boston Marathon’s finish line in 2013, killing three people and wounding more than 260.

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 inmates 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; and 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.
___
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Mark Sherman, Elana Schor and Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.
___
For more of AP’s coverage of U.S. politics: https://www.apnews.com/apf-politics

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

AP

Two horses on the loose bolt through the streets of London near Aldwych, on Wednesday April 24, 202...

Pan Pylas, Associated Press

Rush hour chaos in London as 5 military horses run amok after getting spooked during exercise

LONDON (AP) — Five military horses spooked by noise from a building site bolted during routine exercises on Wednesday near Buckingham Palace, threw off four riders and caused chaos as they galloped loose through central London streets and collided with vehicles during the busy morning rush hour. The commotion erupted when the horses from the […]

7 hours ago

A TikTok content creator, sits outside the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, April 23, 2024....

HALELUYA HADERO AP Business Writer

Senate passes bill forcing TikTok parent company to sell or face ban, sends to Biden for signature

The Senate passed legislation that would force the parent company of TikTok to sell the social media platform under the threat of a ban.

1 day ago

A wood sign with the Google Cloud logo on a sunny day. A person rides their bike behind it....

Associated Press

Google has fired more workers who protested its deal with Israel

An activist group says Google fired at more workers following protests of technology the company is supplying the Israeli government amid the Gaza war.

2 days ago

The Chicago Bears logo is pictured on a flag prior to an NFL football game...

Associated Press

Chicago Bears schedule a Wednesday announcement on new stadium near lakefront

The team said last month it was prepared to provide more than $2 billion in funding toward a publicly owned stadium in the city.

2 days ago

An assortment of vegan, organic, locally sourced, and wild caught food products all using plastic p...

Associated Press

How one grocery shopper takes steps to avoid ‘pointless plastic’

Nature wraps bananas and oranges in peels. But in some modern supermarkets, they're bagged or wrapped in plastic too. For one shopper, it's too much.

3 days ago

us supreme court shown, court hearing case on ghost guns...

MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

Supreme Court will take up the legal fight over ghost guns, firearms without serial numbers

The Supreme Court had previously intervened to keep regulation for gun ghosts in effect during a legal fight over the rules.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

US government will execute inmates for first time since 2003