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DOJ to Resume Death Penalty Executions Next Week After 15 Years

the sign outside the penitentiary in terre haute, indiana
U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. The Justice Department plans to resume federal executions next week for the first time in more than 15 years (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 July 2020 08:54 PM

Federal executions will resume in the United States next week for the first time in more than 15 years.

The Bureau of Prisons have been holding practice drills for months in preparation to put three to death next week at an Indiana prison. Opposition to the executions has raised coronavirus pandemic safety issues. 

Family members of the victims and the inmates will be able to attend but will be required to wear face masks. Prison officials will take temperature checks. The agency will also make personal protective equipment, including masks, gloves, gowns and face shields, available for witnesses, but there are no plans to test anyone attending the executions for COVID-19, officials told The Associated Press.

"Why would anybody who is concerned about public health and safety want to bring in people from all over the country for three separate execution in the span of five days to a virus hot spot?" questioned Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonpartisan organization that collects information on capital punishment.

"The original execution plan last year appeared to be political. And the current plan eliminates any doubt about that," he said.

Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department has vowed the executions will go on as planned.

"The American people, acting through Congress and presidents of both political parties, have long instructed that defendants convicted of the most heinous crimes should be subject to a sentence of death," Barr said in a statement last month.

The three men on death row are all white, as AP noted:

  • Danny Lee, who was convicted in Arkansas of killing a family of three, including an 8-year-old. Family members of Lee's victims have asked a federal judge to delay his execution, saying the coronavirus puts them at risk if they travel to attend the execution. They have asked that the execution be put off until a treatment or a vaccine is available for the virus.
  • Wesley Ira Purkey, of Kansas, who raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and killed an 80-year-old woman.
  • Dustin Lee Honken, who killed five people in Iowa, including two children.

Also, an August execution is planned for Keith Dwayne Nelson, who was convicted of kidnapping a 10-year-old girl while she was rollerblading in front of her Kansas home and raping her in a forest behind a church, then strangling her.

The federal appeals court in Washington and the Supreme Court both declined to step in late last year to stop the executions. But in April, the appeals court threw out the trial judge's order. The Supreme Court then refused to halt the process, but a lower court could still stop them from happening.

The executions will take place at the federal correctional institution in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Barr approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaces the three-drug combination previously used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital. This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri, and Texas, but not all.

Information from the AP was used in this report.

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Politics
Federal executions will resume in the United States next week for the first time in more than 15 years.The Bureau of Prisons have been holding practice drills for months in preparation to put three to death next week at an Indiana prison....
deathpenalty, justice, department, williambarr
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2020-54-08
Wednesday, 08 July 2020 08:54 PM
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