Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

U.S. attorney general imposes moratorium on federal executions

Sports & General Jul 01, 2021 08:31PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
© Reuters. Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general arrives to a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing at the Dirksen Senate Office building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 9, 2021. Stefani Reynolds/Pool via REU

By Sarah N. Lynch and Eric Beech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday imposed a moratorium on federal executions while the Justice Department continues its review of the death penalty, the department said in a statement.

"The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely," Garland said in the statement. "That obligation has special force in capital cases."

Garland's predecessor, William Barr, resumed use of capital punishment last year after a 17-year hiatus.

In the waning months of the administration of President Donald Trump, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) carried out 13 executions, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged throughout the federal prison system and sickened some of the prisoners on death row and even some of their attorneys.

The 13 executions during Trump's tenure -- carried out beginning in July 2020 and ending just days before Trump left office on Jan. 20, 2021 -- exceeded the executions undertaken by any other U.S. president since the 19th century.

Under Barr's directive, the BOP switched to using pentobarbital as part of a new single-drug protocol to administer the lethal injection. Previously, the government had used a combination of three drugs to carry out executions, but that protocol was abandoned because of a shortage of one of the drugs, an anesthetic called sodium thiopental.

Defense lawyers and capital punishment critics have raised concerns about the use of pentobarbital, which can cause a drowning sensation as it rapidly damages capillaries in the lungs, according to autopsies of executed inmates.

Garland said on Thursday that he was directing Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to lead a review that will assess, among other things, the Justice Department's 2019 single-drug protocol as well as "the risk of pain and suffering associated with the use of pentobarbital."

The review will also scrutinize changes the Justice Department made to its regulations in November 2020 that expanded the methods it could use to carry out executions.

Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project, said in a statement that the moratorium on federal executions "is one step in the right direction, but it is not enough."

"President Biden, with the support of the Department of Justice, can and should commute all federal death sentences," she said. Without such a step, she said, it could "pave the way for another unconscionable bloodbath like we saw last year.”

President Joe Biden, a Democrat, pledged during his campaign to support legislation to end the death penalty. Garland has previously said he has concerns about the practice, though some criminal justice reform advocates have criticized the administration for not taking swift enough action.

Garland said last month he was personally reviewing the department's processes dealing with the death penalty. He told his Senate confirmation hearing in February he had concerns about innocent people being executed and about the disparate impact of the death penalty on Black Americans.

There are currently 46 inmates on federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of those, 20 are white, 18 are Black, seven are Latino and one is Asian.

U.S. attorney general imposes moratorium on federal executions

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email