USA | Nov 28, 2020

US amending execution protocols

/ Our Today

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New rule could allow poison gas and firing squad executions

Lisa Montgomery, a federal prison inmate scheduled for execution on December 8, 2020, poses at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Fort Worth in an undated photograph. (File Photo: Courtesy of Attorneys for Lisa Montgomery/Handout via REUTERS)

News coming out of the United States is indicating that the Justice Department is quietly amending its execution protocols to clear the way for state executions by way of firing squads and poison gas.

The amended rule, which was published yesterday in the Federal Register and goes into effect on December 24, would no longer require execution only by lethal injection but by other means such as firing squads and poison gas. The amended rule allows the US government to conduct executions by lethal injection or use “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed”.

News of the amended execution protocols comes as the Justice Department has previously scheduled five executions during what has been described as the ‘lame duck’ period. One of those executions has been schedule to take place just three days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

An unnamed official reported that the amended execution protocol was made to account for the fact that the Federal Death Penalty Act requires sentences be carried out in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed. However, some of those states use methods other than lethal injection.


In addition, a number of other states allow other methods of execution such as electrocution, inhaling nitrogen gas or death by firing squad. It is already predicted that the change is likely to set off intense criticism from the Democrats and anti-death penalty advocates, who are totally opposed to such a move.

U.S. President Donald Trump.

Political pundits say the Donald Trump administration is trying to push through this as well as a number of rule changes before the commander in chief leaves office. In the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, his administration intends on carrying out three executions.

These three inmates on federal death row are now awaiting their executions, which will be the last scheduled executions by the Justice Department before Biden’s inauguration.

After a yearslong hiatus, the resumption of the death penalty in the US took place in July this year. Since then, the Trump administration has executed seven federal inmates.


Those to be executed shortly include 49-year-old Orlando Cordia Hall, who was convicted for the brutal murder of a teenage girl. He was scheduled to be executed last week. Two other prisoners are to be executed in December, including Lisa M. Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row.

Prior to the resumption of state executions this year by the Trump administration, the federal government had put only three inmates to death since 1988. The Justice Department has continued to approve death penalty prosecutions while federal courts continued sentencing defendants to death, even though there hadn’t been a federal execution since 2003.

Trump is a strong proponent of the death penalty, often expressing his belief that state executions serve as an effective deterrent and an appropriate punishment for crimes including mass shootings and the killings of police officers.

United States President-elect Joe Biden

However, Biden opposes the death penalty now and in the future and has said he would work to end its use. But the incoming US president did not say whether executions would be paused immediately once he takes office.


In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma, then President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs.

The review was completed in July 2019, allowing executions to resume and approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaced the three-drug combination previously used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital.


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