Attorney General William Barr has directed the federal government to resume executions beginning with five men convicted of murdering or raping children and the elderly, marking the first federal executions since 2003.
In a groundbreaking Thursday statement, Barr announced that the Federal Bureau of Prisons has adopted an addendum to federal protocol that clears the way for the United States to resume capital punishment. Barr also directed officials to schedule the executions of five men convicted of heinous crimes.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Barr said. “Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers.”
“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system,” he added.
As part of the addendum, Barr also directed the federal government to change the cocktail of three drugs used for federal executions to just a single drug, phenobarbital, a barbiturate that in high doses causes respiratory arrest. The use of the drug is upheld by the Supreme Court as consistent with the Eighth Amendment and has been used in the executions of 200 inmates in 14 states since 2010.
A strong majority of Americans still support the death penalty for convicted murderers by a margin of 56%-41% according to Gallup’s annual survey, but those numbers have been on a slow but steady decline since the mid-1990s when 80% of Americans supported capital punishment and only 16% were opposed.
The men on the short list are accused of crimes against the most vulnerable people in society, children and the elderly.
One man, Daniel Lewis Lee, is a member of a white supremacist group who murdered a family of three, including an 8-year-old child. He killed them by covering their heads with plastic bags sealed with tape and throwing them into a bayou after weighing their bodies down with rocks. Lee will be executed on Dec. 9 of this year.
Another, Lezmond Mitchell, stabbed a 63-year-old grandmother to death before slitting her 9-year-old daughter’s throat and crushing her head. He is scheduled to be executed for his crimes on Dec. 11, 2019.
Wesley Ira Purkey raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl and then dismembered and burned her body. He was also convicted of using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman suffering from polio. He will be put to death on Dec. 13, 2019.
Alfred Bourgeois tortured and molested his 2-year-old daughter before beating the child to death. He will be executed on Jan. 13, 2020.
The final man, Dustin Lee Honken, shot and killed five people, including a single mother and her two daughters, aged five and six. His death is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2020.
All five of those who will be executed have exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies and have no legal obstacles that would prevent their deaths. All of the executions will take place at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute in Indiana.
Additional executions are planned to be scheduled at a later date.
The Washington Examiner reached out to the Justice Department for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Source: Washington Examiner: Barr orders executions of 5 child murderers as US set to resume death penalty