U.S. Bishops Call for Halt to Federal Executions

FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2014, file photo, Department of Corrections officials look through a window from the witness room, at right, outside the newly renovated death chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Okla. Even as President Barack Obama tries to make a hard case for sentencing …
AP Photo

“The bishops have been calling for an end to the death penalty for decades,” writes Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City in an appeal to the U.S. government not to go through with four pending federal executions.

Archbishop Coakley is chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and declares in his statement that “Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all called for an end to the death penalty around the world.”

A number of other U.S. bishops and other religious leaders have joined Archbishop Coakley in his call for a reversal of the U.S. Attorney General’s decision to set new federal execution dates for four federal death row inmates.

In a July 7 statement, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Kentucky, Salt Lake City Bishop Oscar Solis, Bishop Thomas Zinkula of Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Richard Pates who is the apostolic administrator of Joliet, Illinois, joined more than 1,000 faith leaders in calling for a stop to the scheduled executions.

“As faith leaders from a diverse range of traditions, we call on President Trump and Attorney General Barr to stop the scheduled federal executions,” the statement read.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis, and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” it said.

The U.S. Justice Department announced last month that federal executions would resume on July 13 after 17 years without an execution.

There have been only three federal executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1988.

The inmates scheduled for capital punishment are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, and Alfred Bourgeois, convicted of the murders of children and adults and, in some cases, torture.

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