Death by firing squad could be the fate of federal death row inmates in the US under a new rule from the Justice Department. For decades, federal executions have been carried out by lethal injection. But a new rule to be published Friday in the Federal Register, and take effect 30 days later, would allow for other methods found to be in accordance with the law in the state in which the sentence is imposed, per the New York Times. Some states do allow for execution by electrocution or firing squad, including Alabama and Utah, respectively. The Justice Department allowed for 30 days of public comment, rather than the usual 60, after the proposal was submitted in August and the White House gave its approval on Nov. 6, reports ProPublica. What will follow is unclear. Five federal executions are to take place before President Trump’s term is up, following eight others since July.
Four of the five are to be carried out by lethal injection in Terre Haute, Ind., per the Times. The Justice Department hasn't specified the method in the case of triple murderer Dustin John Higgs, but it also hasn't signaled that it's ready to bring back the electric chair. In submitting its proposal in August, the department noted the rule change would prevent federal death row inmates from challenging their executions if, at some future date, execution by lethal injection couldn't be done. That's a real possibility as states have struggled to acquire execution drugs in recent years. This is one of several new rules being finalized by the Trump administration, covering everything from pollution to immigration, ProPublica reports. And while President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he will push to eliminate federal executions, other rule changes "could prove harder to unravel." (Read more execution stories.)