Attorney General Bill Barr announced on Thursday that after a two-decade hiatus, the federal government will get back to the business of capital punishment.
The Justice Department said the decision was made related to “five death-row inmates convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society—children and the elderly.”
As the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, the use of capital punishment has largely been declining in the United States since the turn of the century. Only eight of the 32 states with the death penalty carried out executions in 2017—a nationwide total of 23 deaths, of which Texas claimed seven—marking the 17th consecutive year the number has dropped.
But Barr wants the federal government to step in is because, as has been noted by the conservatives on the Supreme Court, there has been a recent but effective legal trend of death row prisoners lengthening their prison stays (and lives) by having lawyers argue against the brutality of the illicit drugs states have shadily shipped in from foreign countries to carry out executions. To circumvent this, Barr and the DOJ issued a legal opinion in March saying the FDA does not have jurisdiction over these drugs and thus can’t block states from obtaining them. The conservative Supreme Court majority has also ruled against this legal barrier, with Justice Neil Gorsuch writing in April that such arguments result in “unjustified delay.”
I, for one, don’t see any downside in allowing a government with a long, long history of egregious and explicitly racist state-sanctioned murders getting back in the murder game. This should all work out perfectly.