The federal government will reinstate the death penalty for the first time in nearly two decades, Attorney General Bill Barr announced. Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five inmates convicted of murder and other crimes. The executions have been scheduled for December 2019 and January 2020. Though the Justice Department has sought the death penalty in several high-profile cases, the federal government has not executed anyone in 16 years and has only put three people to death since 1988.
The Justice Department also announced a new execution protocol, replacing the three-drug cocktail previously used in federal executions with the single drug, phenobarbital. The 3-to-1 drug change mirrors move made by multiple U.S. states which have struggled to acquire the multiple-drug cocktail for their state-level executions. In the announcement, the U.S. Department of Justice said the decision to resume capital punishment after a lapse of almost two decades was related to “five death-row inmates convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society — children and the elderly.”
Executions have been scheduled for Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, and Dustin Lee Honken, according to the Justice Department. In its release, the DOJ provided summaries of the crimes committed by each inmate.
- -Daniel Lewis Lee is a member of a white supremacist group who killed a family of three, among them an 8-year-old girl. He was found guilty on May 1999 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on three counts of murder in aid of racketeering and sentenced to death. His execution is scheduled for December 9.
- -Lezmond Mitchell was found guilty in May 2003 in the US District Court for the District of Arizona of stabbing a 63-year-old grandmother to death and then forcing her 9-year-old granddaughter to sit next to her body during a 30- to 40-mile drive. He then slit the girl’s throat twice. She also died. His execution is slated for December 11.
- -Wesley Ira Purkey was found guilty in November 2003 in the US District Court for the Western District of Missouri of violently raping and killing a 16-year-old girl before dismembering and burning her body. He had also been convicted in state court of using a claw hammer to kill an 80-year-old woman, the Justice Department said in the release. His execution is scheduled for December 13.
- -According to the Justice Department, Alfred Bourgeois tortured and sexually molested his 2-year-old daughter before beating her to death. He was found guilty in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas in March 2004 of multiple offenses, including murder, and sentenced to death. He’s scheduled to be executed on January 13, 2020.
- -Dustin Lee Honken was found guilty in October 2004 in the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa of murdering five people, including a single mother and her 10- and 6-year-old daughters. Honken’s execution is scheduled for January 15, 2020.
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“The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us
light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god askshim to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.” –Houngan Boukman Dutty