What You Need To Know
- The federal government will resume executing death-row inmates after nearly two decades without doing so, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.
- Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five inmates convicted of murder and other crimes. The executions have been scheduled for December 2019 and January 2020.
- The Supreme Court outlawed state and federal death penalty laws in the 1972 decision Furman v. Georgia. The federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, and expanded by Congress in 1994. No federal executions took place, however, until 2001, according to to the Bureau of Prisons website.
WASHINGTON (PM) — The federal government will recommence executing death-row inmates after nearly two decades without doing so, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday.
Attorney General William Barr ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five inmates convicted of murder and other crimes. The executions have been scheduled for December 2019 and January 2020.
The department also published a new execution protocol, superseding the three-drug cocktail previously applied in federal executions with the single drug, pentobarbital.
The latest federal execution was carried out in 2003. There are 62 people on federal death row, according to a tracker kept by the Death Penalty Information Center.
“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. “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,” he stated.
Executions have been scheduled for Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois, and Dustin Lee Honken, according to the Justice Department.
In its announcement, the Justice Department gave brief summaries of the crimes committed by each inmate.
The Justice Department stated each of the inmates had “exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies, and currently, no legal impediments prevent their executions.” The executions will occur at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The Justice Department announced that additional executions would be scheduled at a later date.
Executions for the following individuals are scheduled for 2019 and 2020:
- Daniel Lewis Lee, a member of a white supremacist group, murdered 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. On May 4, 1999, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas found Lee guilty of numerous offenses, including three counts of murder in aid of racketeering, and he was sentenced to death. Lee’s execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 9, 2019.
- Lezmond Mitchell stabbed to death a 63-year-old grandmother and forced 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. On May 8, 2003, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona found Mitchell guilty of numerous offenses, including first degree murder, felony murder, and carjacking resulting in murder, and he was sentenced to death. Mitchell’s execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 11, 2019.
- Wesley Ira Purkey violently raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl, and then dismembered, burned, and dumped the young 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. On Nov. 5, 2003, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri found Purkey guilty of kidnapping a child resulting in the child’s death, and he was sentenced to death. Purkey’s execution is scheduled to occur on Dec. 13, 2019.
- Alfred Bourgeois physically and emotionally tortured, sexually molested, and then beat to death his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. On March 16, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found Bourgeois guilty of multiple offenses, including murder, and he was sentenced to death. Bourgeois’ execution is scheduled to occur on Jan. 13, 2020.
- Dustin Lee Honken shot and killed five people—two men who planned to testify against him and a single, working mother and her ten-year-old and six-year-old daughters. On Oct. 14, 2004, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa found Honken guilty of numerous offenses, including five counts of murder during the course of a continuing criminal enterprise, and he was sentenced to death. Honken’s execution is scheduled to occur on Jan. 15, 2020.
Each of these inmates has exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies, and currently no legal impediments prevent their executions, which will take place at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana. Additional executions will be scheduled at a later date.