WASHINGTON – The United States federal government will resume capital punishment after a nearly two-decade lapse, the Department of Justice said on Thursday in a news release.
“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law – and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system,” Attorney General William Barr was quoted as saying.
The top US prosecutor communicated his decision to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and instructed the acting director of that agency, Hugh Hurwitz, to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates who were convicted of murdering – and in some cases torturing and raping – minors and the elderly, the release said.
Those federal executions, which would be the first since 2003, are to be carried out in December of this year and in January 2020, it added.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the president,” Barr said.
“Under administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.”
The Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, clearing the way for conservative southern states such as Alabama and Mississippi to implement this punishment.
The US Congress in 1988 restored the death penalty under federal law, allowing it to be imposed for certain murders committed in furtherance of a “continuing criminal enterprise.”
The five individuals scheduled to be executed are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois and Dustin Lee Honken.
All of those death-row inmates were convicted of killing minors and/or elderly women.
Lee, who is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 9, 2019, was a “member of a white supremacist group” who “murdered a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl.”
Purkey, whose execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 13 of this year, “violently raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl” and also “used a claw hammer to bludgeon to death an 80-year-old woman who suffered from polio and walked with a cane,” the Justice Department said.