The Justice Department is halting federal executions after a historic use of capital punishment by the Trump administration.
On Thursday night (July 1), Attorney General Merrick Garland made the announcement, saying he’s imposing a moratorium on federal executions while the Justice Department conducts a policies and procedures review.
“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 humanely,” Garland said, according to CBS News. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”
The AG said the department would review protocols put in place by former Attorney General William Barr. A portion of a federal lawsuit filed over the protocols includes the risk of pain and suffering associated with the drug used for lethal injection.
The Trump administration carried out 13 executions in six months after a 17-month hiatus. No president in more than 120 years had overseen as many federal executions.
Lawyers argued that one of the men put to death last year, Wesley Purkey, suffered “extreme pain” as he received a dose of pentobarbital. Court papers were filed by Keith Nelson, another inmate, in an effort to delay or halt his execution, but it went forward.
President Joe Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and his team vowed he would take action to stop its use while in office.