Attorney General William Barr on Thursday issued a directive paving the way for the federal government to resume the use of the death penalty for the first time in nearly two decades, the Department of Justice announced.
According to the agency, Barr ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to adopt a proposed addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol to allow for capital punishment to resume. The DOJ provided descriptions of five individuals it seeks to have executed in the months of December and January: Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist, who murdered three people, including an eight-year-old girl; Lezmond Mitchell, who stabbed to death a 63-year-old grandmother and slit the throat of her nine-year-old granddaughter; Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and killed a 16-year-old girl; Alfred Bourgeoism who molested, and beat to death his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter; Dustin Lee Honken, who shot dead five people.
“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,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “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 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.”
Additional executions will be announced at a later date, the DOJ stated.
President Barack Obama ordered a review of the death penalty in 2014 after a botched state execution in Oklahoma. The findings of the review are unclear and it is unknown whether the review will impact the way in which future executions will be carried out.
The move by Barr comes after former Vice President Joe Biden announced his support for eliminating of the federal death penalty, despite supporting it for decades. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is the sole 2020 White House candidate to publically support preserving capital punishment in specific cases.