Five murderers are to be executed in the US after Donald Trump brought the federal death penalty back for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The move ends an informal moratorium on the practice as the nation sees a broad shift away from capital punishment.
A single-use drug known as pentobarbital has been instructed to be administered in five federal executions, which will take place between December 2019 and January 2020.
That drug is used by several states for lethal injections.
All five of the death-row inmates have been convicted of the murder or rape of children or the elderly.
The death penalty remains legal in 30 US states, but only a handful regularly conduct executions. Texas has executed 108 prisoners since 2010, far more than any other state.
Executions on the federal level have long been rare. The government has put to death only three defendants since restoring the federal death penalty in 1988, the most recent of which occurred in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a young female soldier.
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Attorney General William Barr said in a statement on Thursday: “Congress has expressly authorised the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President.
“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.”
Ruth Friedman, the director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project criticised the Department of Justice (DoJ)
She said in a statement: “Problems unique to the federal death penalty include over-federalisation of traditionally state crimes and restricted judicial review.
“These and other concerns, including troubling questions about the new execution protocol, are why there must be additional court review before the federal government can proceed with any execution.”