Advocates Eager for Trump to Restart Federal Executions

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The Obama administration’s halt on federal executions — a move spurred by concerns over botched lethal injections — could swiftly end in the incoming Trump administration, leading to the first federal executions in more than a decade, reports the Boston Herald. The current effective moratorium affects the 62 inmates now on federal death row, including convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. President Obama has said he finds the death penalty “deeply troubling” due to issues including racial disparities and wrongful convictions. But Trump and his choice for U.S. attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), both support capital punishment. On the campaign trail, Trump expressed a willingness to expand its use, saying he’d sign an executive order mandating the death penalty for anyone convicted of killing a police officer.

Trump’s transition team did not answer queries seeking details of the president-elect’s planned federal execution policy. Death penalty advocates, however, are cheering next month’s administration change. “I think the federal government can and should start carrying out its death penalties,” said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Sacramento, Calif.-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. The halt on federal executions and ongoing Justice Department review of lethal injection protocols came after a number of botched state executions in which some lethal drug combinations failed to anesthetize inmates, causing inmates to scream and writhe in pain for a prolonged period. A Trump appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court could prevent the justices from reconsidering the constitutionality of the death penalty — despite comments by Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg openly suggesting that it violates the Eighth Amendment. In 2016, there were 30 state executions, the lowest numbers in more than four decades. Polls have shown fewer than half of Americans support the death penalty.

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