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First Federal Executions in 16 Years Are Set

'We owe it to the victims,' says AG Barr
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2019 11:49 AM CDT
Attorney General William Barr speaks during a tour of a federal prison in Edgefield, S.C., in this file photo.   (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

(Newser) – Federal executions will resume later this year after a 16-year hiatus, on the orders of Attorney General William Barr. The Bureau of Prisons has scheduled the executions of five men convicted of murdering children for December and January at Indiana's US Penitentiary Terre Haute, reports CNBC. "We owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system," Barr said Thursday. No federal executions have taken place since 2003 as the Justice Department reviewed its lethal injection protocol. A three-drug "cocktail" once used has been abandoned, and the executions will instead by carried out with a single drug, pentobarbital. A total of 62 prisoners are currently on federal death row.

Ruth Friedman of the Federal Capital Habeas Project takes issue with the move, claiming "the federal death penalty is arbitrary, racially-biased, and rife with poor lawyering and junk science." She also says there are "troubling questions about the new execution protocol," which the Washington Post says is the same one in use in Georgia, Missouri, and Texas. A DOJ release names the inmates: Daniel Lee Lewis killed a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl. Lezmond Mitchell killed a 63-year-old woman and 9-year-old girl. Wesley Ira Purkey killed a 16-year-old girl and 80-year-old woman. Alfred Bourgeois molested and killed his 2-year-old daughter. And Dustin Lee Honken killed five people, two children among them. Some 56% of Americans support capital punishment for murderers, according to a Gallup poll from October. (Read more execution stories.)

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