NEWS & ANALYSIS

Justice Department Orders Halt on Federal Executions


The Justice Department on Thursday ordered a halt to federal executions while a review is conducted on its death penalty policies.

Attorney General Merrick Garland cited concerns about what he described as arbitrariness in its application, its impact on black people and minorities and a “troubling number of exonerations.”

The review will examine several policies and protocols put in place by the Trump administration, which led to the highest rate of federal executions in over a century, according to the Wall Street Journal. Also, it will examine the risk of pain and suffering associated with the legal-injection drug recently used to inflict death on inmates, and the option to expedite executions.

The move is in sidestep with Biden’s opposition to capital punishment. During his campaign, he promised to abolish it nationwide by ending the federal death penalty and encouraging states to pass their own laws halting it.

Garland also asked officials to re-examine rule changes made in November, after which the federal government was no longer required to carry out death sentences by lethal injection.

While Congressional action would be required to get rid of the federal death penalty, Biden has the ability to commute the sentences of current death row inmates.