Supreme Court approves the resumption of federal executions

by Peter Heck · Jun 30th, 2020 9:28 am
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Last Updated Jun 30th, 2020 at 12:17 pm

After a nearly 20-year pause, the federal government is now free to resume executions of capital offenders after the Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of four death row inmates guilty of murdering children. The high court's refusal to take up the case leaves in place a lower court ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that gave the green light to the Trump administration's plans to restart the executions.

Four death row inmates had challenged their scheduled lethal injections, saying that the federal government had usurped the power of state governments in determining the method of executions. A district court judge had agreed with their petition and issued an injunction temporarily barring the executions before the D.C. Appeals Court overturned them.

Only two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, signaled that they were in favor of hearing the appeal. Supreme Court practice requires at least four justices must agree to hear a case in order for it to happen.

Under the order of Attorney General William Barr, the executions of Daniel Lewis Lee, Wesley Ira Purkey, Dustin Lee Honken, and Keith Dwayne Nelson are scheduled to take place in July and August.


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