Appeals Court Allows Two Federal Executions

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Though it declined to block two federal executions, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was critical that seven lethal injections have been carried out in the last few months without medical prescriptions, Courthouse News Service reports. This year, President Donald Trump’s Justice Department has carried out more federal executions than the combined total of his predecessors from the last 57 years, despite a litany of challenges to the new lethal-injection protocol issued by Attorney General William Barr after a 17-year hiatus on the federal death penalty. The court declined Wednesday to delay the executions of Orlando Hall set for Thursday and Brandon Bernard on Dec. 10.

In a rare rebuke to the government’s death-penalty practices, the court revived the inmates’ claims that the government must obtain a prescription before using the drug pentobarbital to kill prisoners. In September, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan found that the Trump administration violated the law by carrying out death sentences with unprescribed pentobarbital. Hall’s attorneys are seeking a stay from the Supreme Court. Hall was convicted of the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1994. Bernard, set to be executed next month, was sentenced to death for the killing of two youth ministers at Fort Hood. One of his five co-defendants, Christopher Vialva, was the most recent federal prisoner to die by lethal injection, in September. Lisa Montgomery is scheduled to die on Dec. 8 — two days before Bernard — and would be the first woman executed by the U.S. government since 1953.

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