Washington – The Justice Department is quietly amending its protocols for executions, no longer requiring federal death sentences to be exclusively by lethal injection and clearing the way for the use of other methods, such as shooting and gas.
The amended rule, published on Friday in the Federal Register – the official gazette – allows the federal government to carry out executions by lethal injection or “use any other way prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.” Several states allow other methods of execution, including electrocution, shooting, and nitrogen inhalation.
It is still unknown whether the Justice Department will seek to use methods other than lethal injection in the future. The rule – which takes effect Dec. 24 – was announced at a time when the department has scheduled five executions, including three just days before Joe Biden takes office.RELATED
A department official said the change was made to take into account the fact that the federal Death Penalty Law requires that sentences be carried out “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.
The official – who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was making statements about internal department protocols – said that two executions scheduled for December will be by lethal injection, but did not provide details on three more planned for January.
The change is likely to draw intense criticism from Democrats and opponents of capital punishment because the Trump administration is trying to get a series of rule changes passed before the president leaves office. A Biden spokesman told the AP this month that the president-elect “opposes the death penalty now and in the future” and would work to stop it. But he did not say whether the executions would be called off immediately once he reaches the White House.
This year, Attorney General Willam Barr resumed federal executions after a 17-year hiatus. The Justice Department has executed more people in 2020 than in the previous 50 years.