AG Barr reinstates federal death penalty

AG Barr reinstates federal death penalty
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
Human Rights

Although a long list of democratic U.S. allies have long since abolished the death penalty, the U.S. has continued to have executions at the state level in some parts of the country. And on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Attorney General William Barr has instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to reinstate the United States’ federal death penalty.

Barr is quoted as saying, “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.” And the U.S. attorney general went on to state, “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 U.S. has not had any federal executions since 2003, although executions have continued in some individual states. Almost half of the states in the U.S. have abolished the death penalty; in May, New Hampshire became the 21st state to do so. And although the other 29 states still have the death penalty on their books, whether or not they enforce it is another matter.

According to Gallup tracking, support for the death penalty has seriously declined from what it was during the Bill Clinton years. In 1994, according to Gallup, 80% of Americans favored the death penalty — whereas in 2019, only 56% percent do.

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