Following a second federal prisoner who tested positive for coronovirus recently next month, several senators are asking the Justice Department’s independent watchdog agency what prompted the Trump administration to reintroduce the federal death penalty this year.
Since July, the Justice Department, under Attorney General William Barr, has executed 10 federal prisoners, three more executions just days before President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in January. It is the highest execution in a presidential lame-duck period in more than 130 years.
The federal government’s ban on executions ended the 17-year moratorium under the previous administration, and came amid an epidemic that sentenced all states to death.
The senators shared in a letter to the Department of Justice Inspector General of Police Michael Dowitz, “Long-standing DOJ policies for federal executions and protocols for federal policies raised many questions about the fairness and application of these policies and protocols Can “with NBC News.
The group of senators, including Democrat Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Corey Booker of New Jersey and Dick Durbin of Illinois, are asking Horowitz to review a number of cases, such as what the Trump administration’s “policy rationale” is for vicissitudes. Was If there was a pattern or practice of enforced racial prejudice (of the 13 condemned federal prisoners, six are black and one is Native American); What are the costs involved with federal execution; And if appropriate steps are taken to ensure families, legal representatives and federal employees are protected from Kovid-19.
“His last days in office during President Trump’s execution is horrifying and unprecedented, and halting these executions during a global pandemic gives families and federal prison officials the death penalty,” said Warren. Supports elimination.
The Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday about letters or concerns raised by lawyers over the proliferation of Kovid-19 regarding the hanging.
Barr, who resigned this month and whose last day with the department is Wednesday, said in July that the death penalty is to bring justice to the victims and survivors and those determined to be among the “worst offenders” Are from
Until now, lawyers in some cases have unsuccessfully argued in court that their clients received poor legal representation during the trial; There was racism in jury selection; That evidence was withdrawn; Or that their clients have an intellectual disability which prevents them from being executed under the Constitution.
Biden campaigned in support of a moratorium on the federal death penalty, favoring a life sentence without probation or parole.
Critics of capital punishment say that executing these carries the risk of spreading coronavirus. There is already evidence that has happened.
Following a federal execution in November, eight members of a 40-man federal execution team later tested positive for Kovid-19 after returning home, according to the court a prison official announced this month. The exact circumstances of how team members became infected were not detailed, but five staff were hired to participate in two executions this month in the Federal Peninsula in Terre Haute, Indiana, where federal prisoners were killed. goes.
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Last week, attorneys for Carrie Johnson and Dustin Higgs – prisoners sentenced to death by death injection, were held in Terror Haute Jail the following month – saying they tested positive for coronovirus.
Lawyers for Johnson, a black man convicted of killing seven people in connection with drug trafficking in Virginia in 1993, have asked President Donald Trump to sentence him before his scheduled January 14 hanging . Lawyers say Johnson is “intellectually incompetent and cannot be constitutionally executed.”
Attorneys for Maryland, a black man convicted of ordering the 1996 murders of three women in Maryland, have also petitioned Trump for clemency before Jan. 15. Dozens of Maryland lawmakers have recently asked that the execution be halted, noting that a partner in the Higgs case who pulled the trigger received a life sentence without parole.
Higgs’ lawyer Sean Nolan said, “The government should not execute another superspreader in the wake of this global epidemic.”