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‘We Owe It to the Victims’: AG William Barr Orders First Federal Executions Since 2003


The Department of Justice announced Thursday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) will reinstitute capital punishment for the first time in nearly 20 years.

According to the press release, U.S. Attorney General William Barr directed the BOP to adopt a proposed Addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol – “clearing the way” for the federal government to resume prisoner executions. Under the now-adopted Addendum, a single drug – pentobarbital – would replace the three-drug cocktail previously administered in federal executions. The pentobarbital replacement method has been utilized by 14 states in more than 200 executions since 2010.

Barr additionally directed the Acting Director of the BOP, Hugh Hurwitz, to schedule the executions of five inmates currently on death-row who were convicted of “murdering and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society – children and the elderly.”

“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.

Barr also announced the dates of the first five executions, which are scheduled to take place between December 9 and January 15, beginning with Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of murdering an eight year old girl and her parents in 1999. The other four death-row inmates with scheduled execution dates are Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, and Dustin Lee Honken.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding,” he said. “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.”

The last person to be executed by the federal government was Louis Jones, Jr., a Texas soldier convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering fellow Army solider Tracie McBride in 1995.

[image via NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.