Justice Department is fast-tracking a rule that could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions to federal executions
The Trump administration is rushing to approve dozens of eleventh-hour policy changes.
Among them: The Justice Department is fast-tracking a rule that could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions to federal executions.
One proposal has raced through the process with little notice but unusual speed — and deadly consequences.
This rule could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions for federal executions, giving the government more options for administering capital punishment as drugs used in lethal injections become unavailable.
The Justice Department surfaced the proposal in August and accepted public comments for only 30 days, instead of the usual 60. The rule cleared White House review on Nov. 6, meaning it could be finalized any day. The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Once finalized, this rule might never be put into practice. The Trump administration executed a federal prisoner in Indiana on Nov. 19 and plans five more executions before Jan. 20, all with lethal injections. After that, Biden has signaled he won’t allow any federal executions and will push to eliminate capital punishment for federal crimes.
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Manner of Federal Executions
A Proposed Rule by the Justice Department on 08/05/2020
The Federal Death Penalty Act provides generally that a capital sentence in a Federal case is to be implemented “in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed.” 18 U.S.C. 3596(a). However, if the “law of the State in which the sentence is imposed” “does not provide for implementation of a sentence of death,” then the statute directs the court to designate another State whose law does “provide for the implementation of a sentence of death,” “and the sentence shall be implemented in the latter State in the manner prescribed by such law.” Id.
The current execution regulations of the Department direct the attorney for the government to “file with the sentencing court a proposed Judgment and Order” stating that “[t]he sentence shall be executed by intravenous injection of a lethal substance or substances in a quantity sufficient to cause death.” 28 CFR 26.2(a). The regulations further state that, except to the extent a court orders otherwise, a sentence of death shall be executed on a date and at a time and at a “federal penal or correctional institution designated by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons . . . [b]y intravenous injection of a lethal substance or substances in a quantity sufficient to cause death.” Id. § 26.3(a). Furthermore, the Federal Bureau of Prisons facility for carrying out executions, located at the Start Printed Page 47325Terre Haute correctional complex in Indiana, is equipped for carrying out executions only by lethal injection.
This proposed rule would provide the Federal Government with greater flexibility to conduct executions in any manner allowed by federal law and implement the statutory authorization in the Federal Death Penalty Act, at 18 U.S.C. 3597, that provides that State and local facilities and personnel may be used in carrying out Federal executions.