New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad

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A new Department of Justice (DOJ) rule could allow some federal death sentences to be carried out by states using other methods besides lethal injection, including by poison gas, electrocution and firing squad.

The amended rule in the Federal Register was published Friday. It would allow the U.S. government to conduct executions by lethal injection or to use “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.”

An official with the DOJ told The Associated Press that the change was made to enforce Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA), which requires sentences to be implemented “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed.”

Speaking with the AP under the condition of anonymity to discuss internal department protocols, the official said two executions scheduled for December would be done via lethal injection.

The official did not comment on the methods used for the three other planned executions slated for January, before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The new rule will go into effect on Dec. 24.

Changes to the FDPA come as Attorney General William Barr resumed federal executions this year following a 17-year hiatus.

All states that use the death penalty allow for lethal injection methods. People who are issued the death penalty are generally given injections, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.

Still, as lethal injection drugs are difficult to obtain, some states have resorted to alternative methods to carry out executions, such as nitrogen gas.

In 2018, the state of Alabama joined Oklahoma and Mississippi in approving the use of nitrogen gas to execute prisoners.

Following a botched execution in Oklahoma six years ago, former President Obama ordered the DOJ to conduct a wide-scope review of capital punishment and human rights issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.

Some states allow inmates to choose their execution method, such as Florida, which permits inmates on death row to request death by electrocution.

In Utah, prisoners sentenced before 2004 can choose to be killed by firing squad, and the state law also authorizes firing squad usage if lethal injection drugs are not available.

The first federal execution to take place since 2003 occurred in July.  

Tags Capital punishment Capital punishment in Oklahoma Capital punishment in the United States Execution by firing squad Joe Biden Lethal injection States of the United States William Barr

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