DOJ to Resume Capital Punishment After Almost Two Decades

Courthouse under blue sky.

Courthouse under blue sky.

For almost 20 years now, the U.S. Justice Department has not done any executions of federal prisoners. However, this is all about to change. Attorney General William Barr announced on Thursday that the Justice department would reinstitute capital punishment of federal prisoners and almost immediately scheduled the executions of five federal death row prisoners who have been convicted of murdering children or elderly.

Not Much Support

Following former Vice President, hoping to be future president, Joe Biden, announcing his approval of getting rid of the death penalty for good (despite his long support of it), Barr said that the Justice Department would resume executions. Currently Montana Governor Steve Bullock is the only candidate for the White House in 2020 that publicly supports capital punishment.

In 2003 the last federal prisoner was executed, charged with the murder of an Army private, Louis Jones Jr. was sentenced to death in March. Since his death, the Justice Department has no longer performed executions. Instead, death row inmates remain confined to their prison.

Renewing the Punishment

Barr has renewed the death penalty, however, and has already planned executions for five of the “worst criminals” on death row. “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,” said Barr. [1]

“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.” [2]

The Department of Justice did list the individuals who are scheduled for punishment: Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist, who murdered three people, including an eight-year-old girl; Lezmond Mitchell, who stabbed to death a 63-year-old grandmother and slit the throat of her nine-year-old granddaughter; Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and killed a 16-year-old girl; Alfred Bourgeoism who molested, and beat to death his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter; Dustin Lee Honken, who shot dead five people.

Their executions are planned to take place in December and January of 2019 and 2020.


  1. ^Ross, Chuck. “DOJ To Resume Capital Punishment.” The Daily Caller, 25 July 2019, (go back  ↩)
  2. ^Federal Government to Resume Capital Punishment After Nearly Two Decade Lapse.” 25 July 2019, (go back  ↩)

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