Attorney General Bill Barr said Thursday the federal government will resume capital punishment and will move forward with plans to execute five inmates on death row for the first time in more than 15 years.
The Justice Department said Barr has directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt a proposed addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol that will clear the way for the executions. Barr has also directed the bureau of prisons to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Barr said in a statement.
He added: “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.”
The five inmates who have been sentenced to death are scheduled to be executed starting in December:
Daniel Lewis Lee is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 9. Lee, a white supremacist, was convicted in May 1999 of murdering a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl. “After robbing and shooting the victims with a stun gun, Lee covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed the bags with duct tape, weighed down each victim with rocks, and threw the family of three into the Illinois bayou,” the DOJ said in a statement.
Then murder suspect Danny Lee waits for his arraignment hearing in the Pope County Detention Center in Russellville, Ark., on Friday, Oct. 31, 1997. (AP Photo/The Courier, Dan Pierce, File)
Lezmond Mitchell is scheduled to be executed Dec. 11. Mitchell was convicted in 2003 of stabbing to death a 63-year-old grandmother and, according to the DOJ, forcing “her nine-year-old granddaughter to sit beside her lifeless body for a 30 to 40-mile drive.” “Mitchell then slit the girl’s throat twice, crushed her head with 20-pound rocks, and severed and buried both victims’ heads and hands,” the Justice Department said.
Wesley Ira Purkey is scheduled to be executed on Dec. 13. Purkey was convicted in 2003 of raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl before dismembering, burning and dumping the girl’s body in a septic pond. “He also was convicted in state court for using a claw hammer to bludgeon to death an 80-year-old woman who suffered from polio and walked with a cane,” DOJ said.
Wesley Ira Purkey is scheduled to be executed Dec. 13. (Handout)
Alfred Bourgeois is scheduled to be executed Jan. 13. He was convicted in 2004 of torturing, sexually molesting and beating to death his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Dustin Lee Honken is scheduled to be executed on Jan. 15. He was convicted in 2004 of shooting and killing five people: two men who planned to testify against him, as well as a single mother and her two daughters.
<strong>Dustin Lee Honken</strong> was convicted in 2004 of shooting and killing five people: two men who planned to testify against him, as well as a single mother and her two daughters. (Associated Press)
The Justice Department said each of the inmates have exhausted appeal efforts and will be executed at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana.
DOJ said additional executions of federal prisoners will be scheduled at a later date.
The executions will be the first in the federal prison system since 2003. In 2014, then-President Barack Obama directed the department to conduct a review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs. That review resulted in what effectively was a freeze on executions.
The department says the Bureau of Prisons has completed the review and the executions can continue.
Executions on the federal level have been rare. The government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988, the most recent of which occurred in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.