Politics

Attorney General Merrick Garland Orders Cessation of Federal Executions

  • In the last two years, the DOJ made a series of changes to capital case policies and procedures.
  • Garland: DOJ must ensure all in the federal criminal justice system “treated fairly and humanely.”
  • Garland has directed Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to lead the review of death penalty policy.

Attorney General Merrick Garland Thursday ordered a moratorium on federal executions to allow for a Justice Department review of death penalty policy.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a memorandum. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

Garland’s action comes after the Justice Department in 2019 ordered a revival of federal executions by lethal injection, using a powerful one-drug protocol.

The change paved the way for 13 executions between July 2020 and January 2021.

“In the last two years, the department made a series of changes to capital case policies and procedures and carried out the first federal executions in nearly two decades between July 2020 and January 2021,” according to the department. “That included adopting a new protocol for administering lethal injections at the federal Bureau of Prisons, using the drug pentobarbital.”

Garland confirmation hearing

During his confirmation hearing, Garland said continuing exonerations of the wrongly convicted have given him “pause,” and he cited President Joe Biden’s strong opposition to capital punishment.

“A most terrible thing happens when someone is executed for a crime that they did not commit,” Garland said.

At that time, Garland said he harbored “great” concern about the application of the death penalty by the federal government, which dramatically resumed executions during the Trump administration.

 

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