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AG Merrick Garland Panic

Attorney General Merrick Garland orders HALT on all federal executions after Trump administration reinstated them after 18 year gap

US Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a halt on federal executions after telling officials that capital punishment is too arbitrary, disproportionately targets people of color, and risks wrongly killing innocent people.

Garland sent a memo to Department of Justice Officials Thursday sharing his 'serious concerns' over federal executions, including the 'troubling number of exonerations' for people sentenced to death.

The AG's statement added: 'The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States but is also treated fairly and humanly.'

Executions ordered by the US government were halted for close to two decades over shortages of drugs used for lethal injections, and concerns that that method of putting prisoners to death was inhumane.

But Attorney General Bill Barr - who served under Donald Trump - ordered them to resume in 2019. That saw 13 prisoners put to death by the federal government between July 2020 and January 2021. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many federal executions.

Executions on the federal level have always been rare and the government has put to death only three defendants between restoring the federal death penalty in 1988 and Trump's presidency. The last came in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.

In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.

Barr said last July that the Obama-era review had been completed, clearing the way for executions to resume. He approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaces the three-drug combination previously used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital. This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas, but not all.

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