The Department of Justice’s Moratorium on Executions Is Not What Biden Promised
Attorney General Merrick Garland sent out a memo Thursday temporarily halting all federal executions so that the Justice Department can conduct a review of death row protocols.
The memo essentially dismantles the system that former Attorney General William Barr put into place during the final year of former President Donald Trump’s administration, one that led to the executions of 12 men and one woman over the course of six months.
This memo does not actually indicate that the Justice Department seeks to eliminate the death penalty, which is something that President Joe Biden promised on the campaign trail. Rather, Garland is telling the Bureau of Prisons to review the use of pentobarbital sodium as the sole execution drug in order to analyze medical concerns that the drug causes pain to prisoners as they’re being put to death. Also set for review are a couple of other procedural changes that Barr put into place.
The use of pentobarbital sodium as the execution drug has prompted legal challenges all the way up to the Supreme Court trying to stop its use. The Supreme Court has declined to intervene, though Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer have all been encouraging the full Court to review some of these executions.
“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the fede
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