US halts federal executions during capital punishment policy review

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday issued a moratorium on federal executions while a review of policies and procedures is pending to address “serious concerns” about the practice.

The move marks a sharp break from the policies of former President Donald Trump’s administration, which carried out a record number of executions.

However, there have been no federal executions since President Joe Biden, who is known for his opposition to the death penalty, was inaugurated.

“Serious concerns have been raised about the continued use of the death penalty across the country,” Garland wrote in a two-page statement announcing the moratorium.

These include “arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color and the disturbing number of exemptions in capital and other serious cases.”

There will be no federal executions “while a review of Justice Department policies and procedures is pending,” he wrote.

The Department of Justice “must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system not only receives the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and laws, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said.

“That obligation has special power in capital matters.”

In the United States, most executions are carried out by states, not the federal government.

Federal crimes that can carry the death penalty usually involve drug trafficking, terrorism or espionage.

The US government hadn’t carried out any executions in 17 years – but from July 2020 to the final days of the Trump administration, an unprecedented 13 federal prisoners were executed.


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