Jul 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

AG Garland pauses federal executions, orders review of procedures

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday ordered a moratorium on federal executions while the Department of Justice reviews its death penalty policies and procedures.

Driving the news: Garland said in a memo that "serious concerns" have been raised about the use of the death penalty, "including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases."

  • No federal executions will be scheduled while the review takes place.

The big picture: Garland also raised concerns about the lethal injection protocol adopted during the Trump administration.

  • During the previous administration the Justice Department changed its capital case policies and procedures, leading to the "first federal executions in nearly two decades between July 2020 and January 2021," notes a DOJ press release.
  • The Trump administration carried out 13 executions in six months, per AP.
  • Garland had previously indicated that he wished to review the federal government's death penalty policies, per Reuters.

The bottom line: “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 wrote.

Go deeper