The amended rule, published Friday in the Federal Register, allows the United States government to carry out executions by lethal injection or use “any other way prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.” Several states allow other methods of execution, including electrocution, inhalation of nitrogen gas, or death by firing squad.
A Justice Department official said the change was made to take into account the fact that the federal Death Penalty Law requires that sentences be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed. “, and some of those states use methods other than lethal injection.
The official told the AP that the federal government “will never execute an inmate by firing squad or electrocution unless the corresponding state has authorized that method of execution.”
The official said that two executions scheduled for December would be carried out by lethal injection, but did not provide information on three more scheduled for January. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the department’s internal protocols.
The change is likely to unleash intense criticism from Democrats and death penalty advocates as the Trump administration tries to push through a series of rule changes before Trump leaves office. A Biden spokesman told the AP earlier this month that the president-elect “opposes the death penalty now and in the future” and would work to end its use. But he did not say whether the executions would stop immediately once Biden takes office.
Attorney General William Barr restarted federal executions this year after a 17-year hiatus. This year, the Department of Justice has executed more people than in the previous half century, despite declining public support from Democrats and Republicans for its use.
All states that use the death penalty allow lethal injection, and that is the primary method in all states where other methods are allowed, according to data compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit organization. As lethal injection drugs become difficult to obtain, some states have begun looking for alternative methods of executing death sentences. Alabama joined Oklahoma and Mississippi in 2018 in approving the use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners, allowing the state to suffocate sentenced inmates with the gas in some cases.
In some states, inmates can choose the method of execution. In Florida, for example, a prisoner can specifically request to be killed by electrocution and in Washington state, prisoners can request to be killed by hanging. In Utah, prisoners convicted before May 2004 can choose to be killed by firing squad. State law also authorizes the use of a firing squad if lethal injection drugs are not available.
Barr said in July 2019 that the review had been completed, allowing executions to resume and approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaced the three-drug combination previously used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital. . The single drug protocol is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri, and Texas.
Inside America’s Chambers of Death
Before the Trump administration resumed executions this year, the federal government had executed only three inmates since 1988. Although there had been no federal execution since 2003, as of July, the Justice Department continued to approve the death penalty prosecutions and the courts have continued to sentence the accused to death.
Trump has spoken often about capital punishment and his belief that executions serve as an effective deterrent and appropriate punishment for some crimes, including mass shootings and killings of police officers.