Saturday 28th November 2020
US President Trump is reintroducing the death penalty at the federal level, and following a legal victory, it has been enforced since July. Shortly before the end of his term in office, the government is now expanding the types of execution. That could make enforcement easier.
In addition to lethal injection, the US government wants to allow other methods of execution such as shootings, the electric chair or the use of deadly gas. This emerges from the amendment to a regulation for the execution of the death penalty for offenders convicted at the federal level, which was published in the official gazette of the federal government. Accordingly, as of December 24, executions should be carried out using all execution methods that are legal in the state in which the sentence was given.
Most executions were carried out by lethal injection, but laws in some states provide alternatives. In Mississippi and Oklahoma, for example, the use of gas, the electric chair and firing squads are generally permitted. In Tennessee, for example, a prisoner was executed on the electric chair in December.
It was initially unclear whether the Justice Department of incumbent President Donald Trump actually planned to change the previous practice of lethal injection. The department plans to execute several more federally convicted criminals until President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. The Democrat Biden rejects the death penalty. Republican Trump had enforced the reintroduction of executions at the federal level. While many US states are executing the death penalty, there had been no federal executions since 2003.
Public opinion is changing
Since then, the death penalty has continued to be imposed but not carried out. The legal battle over the resumption of executions had dragged on to the Supreme Court in Washington, but the government prevailed. The first three executions were then carried out by lethal injection in July in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Overall, the death penalty is on the decline in the United States. In many places this has to do with changing public opinion, but also with increasing difficulties in obtaining the substances required for lethal injection. The new regulation could make it easier to carry out death sentences.
Furthermore, the death penalty tends to lead to lengthy – and costly – litigation. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 15 people have been executed in the USA so far in 2020, 8 of them at the federal level.