US Attorney General Merrick Garland released a memorandum on Thursday that imposes a moratorium on federal executions.
“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only granted the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, but that they are also treated in a fair and humane manner,” Garland said in a statement. “This obligation has special force in cases of capital punishment.”
Executions will be suspended while a review of Department of Justice policies and procedures takes place.
Federal executions were largely halted for nearly two decades until former Attorney General William Barr changed policy and allowed executions to proceed with one drug, pentobarbital.
Federal executions resumed in July 2020.
Later that year, the old administration extended the permitted methods of execution.
DUSTIN HIGGS PERFORMED AT THE 13TH CAPITAL SENTENCE UNDER TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SINCE JULY
Garland wrote in a memo Thursday that “serious concerns” had been expressed about the continued application of the death penalty, including arbitrariness in its application, disparate effects on people of color and a “disturbing” number of exemptions in capital cases.
The review will assess the risk of pain and suffering associated with pentobarbital, permitted delivery methods beyond injections, and provisions for capital punishment cases.
In 2020, the federal government carried out 10 executions, more than all U.S. states combined, according to a report from the Death Penalty Information Center.
A total of 13 federal executions took place in the last months of the former administration.
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Biden has vowed to eliminate the death penalty during the election campaign. However, a 1994 bill he helped draft as a sitting senator – the Violent Crime Review and Law Enforcement Act – extended death penalty eligibility to d ‘other crimes.
More than 20 states have abolished the death penalty.
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