Trump administration to bring back federal death penalty after 16-year lapse

Attorney General Bill Barr. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr has instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to reinstate the death penalty, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

“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. ... 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.”
— Attorney General Bill Barr

Why it matters: No federal executions have taken place since 2003 — an informal moratorium as the Justice Department "reviewed its lethal injection protocols," per the Washington Post. In addition to directing the BOP to resume capital punishment, Barr has asked the acting director of the agency to schedule the executions of 5 death-row inmates convicted of murder, beginning on Dec. 9.

The big picture: The updated federal execution protocol ordered by Barr would closely mirror a single-drug procedure used in several states, including currently Georgia, Missouri and Texas. A number of drugmakers that used to supply the 3-drug cocktail used for execution purposes stopped selling them in protest, making it more difficult for states to enforce lethal injections.

  • Capital punishment across the country is largely on the decline, with New Hampshire becoming the 21st to eliminate the death penalty in May. According to a Gallup tracker, 56% of Americans are in favor of the death penalty, down from a peak of 80% in 1994.

Go deeper: Where the death penalty survives around the world

What's next

Barr plans death penalty fast-track for mass shooters and police killers

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr told the Fraternal Order of Police conference in New Orleans Monday the Trump administration will push for legislation fast-tracking the death penalty in cases of mass shootings or the killing of police officers.

"I will share with you one proposal that we will be advancing after Labor Day.  We will be proposing legislation providing that in cases of mass murder, or in cases of murder of a law enforcement officer, there will be a timetable for judicial proceedings that will allow imposition of any death sentence without undue delay.  Punishment must be swift and certain."
— Attorney General Bill Barr speech to the Fraternal Order of Police

Go deeper: Trump administration to bring back federal death penalty after 16-year lapse

AG Bill Barr removes acting Bureau of Prisons director after Epstein death

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Bar has ordered the removal of acting director of the Bureau of Prisons Hugh Hurwitz following the suicide of alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein in the Manhattan Metropolitan Correctional Center.

The big picture: Barr has previously said there were "serious irregularities" at the MCC and that the Justice Department will ensure that those responsible for the oversight are held accountable. Barr has appointed Kathleen Hawk Sawyer as the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Thomas Kane as deputy director. Hawk Sawyer previously served as director of the bureau from 1992 to 2003.

Go deeperArrowAug 19, 2019 - Politics

How death cafes are de-stigmatizing death

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An ongoing movement of “death cafes” — open salons for discussing death, with no set agenda — is spreading across America with the goal of ending the taboo around talking about dying.

The big picture: The number of Americans 65 and older is on course to double from 46 million to over 98 million by 2060. Aided by a growing culture of sharing and openness in society, the future of these aging boomers is spurring conversations about aging and dying.