Ministry of Justice rushes to expand methods of execution, such as assigning federal death row inmates


The approved amendment to the “Method of Federal Executions” rule offers federal prosecutors a wider choice of enforcement to avoid delays if the state in which the detainee has been convicted does not offer any other alternative.

The rule was among three dozen political changes, and President Donald Trump is trying to cross it out before his term expires. The proposed changes were first reported by ProPublica.

Attorney General William Barr and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs have pushed the rule forward. As soon as the adopted amendment is published in the Federal Register, which, according to an official from the Ministry of Justice, may appear as early as Friday, it will enter into force in 30 days.

Eventually, the question may arise as President-elect Joe Biden has campaigned for the abolition of the federal death penalty, and four of the five prisoners planned for execution have already chosen the mode – a lethal injection.

The Ministry of Justice did not comment on the creation of the new rule.

The proposed amendment, published in August, calls for alternative means to federal executions if a lethal injection is not available in the state in which the accused was sentenced to death.

He also suggests that if the state where the crime was committed does not allow for a death sentence, the judge may designate another state with these laws and use their options to carry out the execution.

Lawyers involved in the death penalty have argued that the use of a “non-prescribed” pentobarbital lethal injection is a violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act and that a detainee suffers from the consequences of “electrical pulmonary edema” – respiratory. according to court documents, the fluid quickly floods the lungs.

These arguments were rejected by the Supreme Court and the federal judge, who held that it was not “certain” or “likely” that such an event could occur if a lethal injection was used, and that according to court documents, it does not rise to the level of a constitutional violation of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Earlier this year, Oklahoma continued executions after a 2015 incident in which Clayton Lockett, the death row inmate, received the wrong drug for execution. According to previous reports, Lockett died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the injection.
28 states allow federal and state executions, and lethal injection is the primary mode of execution. At least nine of these states allow alternative methods such as electric shock, deadly gas, a shooting team, and hanging. No mention was made of hangings in the amended rule.

“None of the federal death row inmates committed the crime in a state that uses the shooting squad to execute prisoners,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said on Twitter Thursday.

When the Department of Justice’s rules on future death penalty cases are published, prosecutors may ask a judge to transfer the case to another state, such as Oklahoma, Utah, or Mississippi, where shooting is allowed.

Barr announced his schedule of the last three death sentences on November 20 before Biden’s oath, two of which are expected next month. If all the executions planned since July are completed, the Trump administration has sentenced most federal inmates to death during the presidential transition since 1884, Dunham told CNN on Monday.

Four of the detainees, including Brandon Bernard – the youngest in the United States sentenced to death for a teenage crime – and Lisa Montgomery – the only federally sentenced woman to be executed for the first time in 70 years – expected to receive a lethal injection.

Montgomery’s execution was suspended until December 31 after his lawyers diagnosed him with the coronavirus. The date of his execution is set for January 12.

The Trump administration denied Montgomery’s immediate request. Bernard’s request to suspend his last execution was rejected by the Supreme Court last week.

Dustin Higgs, the first in Maryland in 2000 to be sentenced to federal death, is unspecified. Higgs’ lawyer did not comment.

There are currently 54 people on federal death sentences. Bernard’s next scheduled execution on December 10th.

CNN Jessica Schneider contributed to the report.