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New federal rule to allow other methods of execution besides lethal injection

"As lethal injection drugs become difficult to obtain, some states have begun looking at alternative methods for carrying out death sentences."

Updated: November 27, 2020 - 6:53pm

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The Justice Department is changing its execution protocols, so that federal executions are no longer required to be done by lethal injection only. 

The amended rule, as reported by the AP, allows the government to use lethal injection or “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.” The rule was published in the Federal Register on Friday. 

Those other manners include “electrocution, inhaling nitrogen gas or death by firing squad.” The amended rule goes into effect on Dec. 24 and comes as the DOJ has scheduled five executions during this lame-duck period. 

The reason for the change, according to a Justice Department official, is “the Federal Death Penalty Act requires sentences be carried out in the ‘in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed,’ and some of those states use methods other than lethal injection.” 

Executions have been rare in recent years, having been stopped after a botched execution in 2014. A commission was set up to review the death penalty, and Attorney General William Barr announced in 2019 that the review was complete. He said at the time that they would resume executing death row inmates, specifically five men convicted of murdering children. 

“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,” Barr said. 

A spokesperson for Joe Biden recently told the AP that Biden “opposes the death penalty now and in the future” and would work to end its use. 

President Trump has not conceded defeat in the recent presidential election and he continues to dispute the results projected by some media organizations, including the AP, and certified by some states. There are a number of lawsuits filed attempting to overturn the results.