For the first time in over sixteen years, the federal government will resume using the death penalty, as Attorney General William Barr on Thursday announced that five federal inmates would be put to death for their crimes, with the first execution scheduled for December 9, 2019.
"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 written statement released by the Justice Department.
Five execution dates were announced by Barr for five inmates convicted of murder, starting with Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of a white supremacist group, who murdered a family of three in Arkansas, and was found guilty in May of 1999.
"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 added.
The last federal execution took place in 2003.
Five different inmates are now scheduled for executions in December and early January, at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, as the Justice Department noted that all five have “exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies, and currently no legal impediments prevent their executions.”
Thursday's announcement said the inmates would be put to death using a single lethal injection drug - pentobarbital - which the feds say has been used by 14 states in recent years for executions.
The move drew immediate opposition.
“Too many innocent people have been put to death,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “We need a national moratorium on the death penalty, not a resurrection.”
“There’s enough violence in the world. The government shouldn’t add to it,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). “When I am president, we will abolish the death penalty.”
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