A judge has blocked the scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates, effectively stopping the Trump administration’s effort to continue inflicting the death penalty in a national system that saw its last execution more than a decade and a half ago.
The order issued Wednesday night by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan halts four executions that U.S. officials intended to carry out starting next month.
The only other execution that officials had put on the calendar, also for December, was blocked last month by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
In July, Attorney General William Barr announced plans to resume executions at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. He implied the practice had been allowed to languish for too long and said it would deliver justice in cases involving what he called the “worst criminals.”
Barr announced a new federal death penalty protocol that would use a single drug, pentobarbital, instead of a three-drug “cocktail” employed in the most recent federal executions.
In the wake of Barr’s announcement, a series of death row inmates enteredered a long-dormant legal challenge to that previous method. They asked Chutkan to block their executions under the new protocol until their legal challenges to it were fully adjudicated.
In her ruling Wednesday, Chutkan stated the death row inmates appeared likely to prevail on their arguments that the new protocol violates longstanding federal law because the procedures to be used vary from state law. A 1994 federal statute says federal executions shall be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed.”
Justice Department attorneys contended that the use of lethal injection was sufficiently similar despite the drugs used or other details of the execution protocol. Still, Chutkan ruled that the law likely requires federal authorities to utilize the same drugs or drugs and a similar process.
“Requiring the federal government to follow more than just the state’s method of execution is consistent with other sections of the statute and with historical practices. For all these reasons, this court finds that the FDPA [Federal Death Penalty Act] does not authorize the creation of a single implementation procedure for federal executions,” wrote the judge, an appointee of President Barack Obama.
“There is no statute that gives the [Bureau of Prisons] or DOJ the authority to establish a single implementation procedure for all federal executions,” Chutkan added.
In imparting the injunction, Chutkan noted the apparent fact that allowing the executions would deny the inmates of their ability to continue their legal challenges. She also fled from the Justice Department’s claim that time was of the essence, noting that revisions to the federal death penalty protocol failed for years after shortages developed of at least one drug used in the earlier three-drug cocktail.
The earliest of the five executions that federal officials planned to carry out in the coming weeks was scheduled for Dec. 9.
“While the government does have a legitimate interest in the finality of criminal proceedings, the eight years that it waited to establish a new protocol undermines its arguments regarding the urgency and weight of that interest,” the judge wrote.
Read the order here. Live updates on America’s executions below.
House Passes $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Bill
(CNN) — The House of Representatives on Friday approved a historic $2 trillion coronavirus response stimulus package, clearing the way for President Trump’s signature.
The far-reaching legislation stands as the largest emergency aid package in US history. It injects a massive financial boost into a struggling economy with provisions aimed at helping American workers, small businesses and industries grappling with the economic disruption.
Key elements of the package include sending checks directly to individuals and families, an expansion of unemployment benefits, money for hard-hit hospitals and health care providers, financial assistance for small businesses and $500 billion in loans for distressed companies.
“No bill is perfect, but we want to make sure that it at least comes near part of the way to being sufficient,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on the House floor. She said she is already working towards a fourth coronavirus response measure: “We know that this cannot be our final bill.”
A bipartisan swath of lawmakers passed the stimulus package by voice vote, a process commonly used in the House for uncontroversial measures, after Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie attempted to force a full roll call vote — a scenario that had members scrambling to get back to the Capitol from around the country on Friday.
Congressional leaders blocked Massie’s effort, saying an insufficient number of members supported his request. A quorum of the House — 216 members — was needed to block Massie’s attempt. Members who made it to DC for the debate attempted to maintain social distancing, with some staying on the House floor while others sat in the upstairs gallery above the chamber, where the public usually sits.
Essentially, hundreds of lawmakers traveled to the Capitol in the 24 hours leading up to the vote, not to hold a full vote, but in order to prevent a full vote from happening. If a roll call vote had been taken, it would have been very slow: members would have voted in alphabetical groups in order to limit their social interactions.
Massie wrote on Twitter ahead of the showdown that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy worked together “to block a recorded vote just to insulate members of Congress from ACCOUNTABILITY.”
“Biggest spending bill in the history of mankind, and no recorded vote? #SWAMP,” he said.
Streatham Stabbings Declared Terror Incident
Police have confirmed that an incident in Streatham,London is being treated as terrorism-related.
Multiple people are believed to have been stabbed.
Reports say that a man was shot by armed police officers and is dead.