The US Justice Department will execute five death row inmates in the coming months, after the federal government’s use of capital punishment was reinstated for the first time in 16 years.
Attorney General William Barr made the announcement earlier today (July 25), confirming five inmates who have previously been sentenced to death will be executed starting from December.
The five men scheduled to be executed are death row inmates who have been convicted of murdering – and in some cases torturing and raping – children and the elderly, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The last federal inmate to be executed was former soldier Louis Jones Jr, who was killed by lethal injection in 2003 for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of 19-year-old Army Private Tracie Joy McBride.
Attorney General Bar said in a statement, as per the US Department of Justice:
Congress has expressly authorised the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President.
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
Although the federal death penalty applies in all 50 states and US territories, executions on a federal level have been extremely rare in the past.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, although 78 defendants have been sentenced to death since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988, only three have been executed. No-one has been executed on a federal level since 2003, and twelve have since been removed from death row.
Executions on a state level, by contrast, occur each year in the 29 states that have capital punishment. Most recently, Marion Wilson was put to death by lethal injection in Georgia on June 20. Nine others have been executed in 2019 across Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida.
The inmates scheduled to be executed are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, and Dustin Lee Honken.
Lee, a member of a white supremacist group, murdered a family of three – including an eight-year-old girl – in 1996. He was found guilty of numerous offences in 1999, and is due to be executed on December 9 this year.
Honken, who shot and killed five people – two men, a mother, and her two daughters (aged 10 and six) – was found guilty of five counts of murder in 2004. His execution is scheduled for January 15.
Mitchell, who fatally stabbed a 63-year-old grandmother and then murdered her nine-year-old granddaughter after forcing her to sit next to her lifeless body, is due to be executed on December 11 this year.
Purkey was found guilty of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl in 2003, and was also convicted in state court for murdering an 80-year-old woman. His execution is scheduled for December 13 this year.
Bourgeois was found guilty of multiple offences in 2004, including the torture, sexual molestation, and murder of his two-year-old daughter. He is set to be executed on January 13 next year.
Additional executions are due to be scheduled at a later date.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).