The United States Justice Department announcement that it is reinstating the federal death penalty for the first time in 16 years was unwelcome news for Catholic leaders who have advocated against capital punishment. Source: NCR Online.
“The United States’ death penalty system is tragically flawed. Resuming federal executions – especially by an administration that identifies itself as ‘pro-life’ – is wrongheaded and unconscionable,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilising Network, a group that champions restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.
The execution of five inmates on federal death row will take place from December to January next year.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement yesterday: “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.”
The last federal execution was in 2003
In 2014, President Barack Obama directed the Bureau of Prisons to conduct a review of federal capital punishment cases and issues surrounding the use of lethal injection drugs. According to the July 25 announcement, that review is complete and the executions can proceed.
There are 62 inmates – 61 men and one woman – on federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.
Most of the federal death-row prisoners are at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
They include Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Charleston, South Carolina, church shooter Dylann Roof.
In a tweet, Sr Helen Prejean, a long-time opponent of capital punishment, said she was about to “board a plane to Alaska to join the celebrations of 62 years without the death penalty in that state” when she learned “the federal government plans to restart executions later this year after a 16-year hiatus.”
“The DOJ regresses as the rest of our country evolves,” she added.