The United States will resume federal executions on July 13 , after a 17 -year stay , the Justice Department said Monday .
There have been just three federal execution since the death penalty was reinstated by the US government in 1988 .
Attorney General Bill Barr announced a year ago he intended to resume the use of the death penalty for federal crimes . Five convicted murderers were scheduled to undergo lethal injections in December 2019 and January of this year at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
But at the last minute , the US Supreme Court refused to lift a stay on federal executions, saying that — “in light of what is at stake ” — the block on executions should be reviewed by an appeals court.
In April , an appeals court in Washington approved the use of pentobarbital for lethal injections , and Barr ordered that new execution dates be set for four of the five convicts .
“We owe it to the victims of these horrific crimes ,” Barr said in a statement .
Following his order, the Bureau of Prisons scheduled the executions to take place between July 13 and August 28 .
Among the four is Daniel Lewis Lee , an avowed white supremacist , who was sentenced to death for the 1996 murder of a family of three , including an eight – year- old girl .
The mother of one of his victims , Earlene Peterson , opposes Lee ’s execution due to her religious convictions and appealed to US President Donald Trump to grant Lee clemency .
“I can ’t see how executing Daniel Lee will honor my daughter in any way ,” Peterson said in a video posted online . “In fact, kind of like it dirties her name because she wouldn ’t want it and I don’t want it.”
Trump , who is a fervent advocate of the death penalty and has even said it should be applied against drug dealers , did not grant her appeal .
According to opinion polls , support for the death penalty has declined in recent years and is down to around 54 percent from 80 percent in the early 1990 s.
Only a handful of states , mainly in the US south, still carry out executions. Twenty -two people were executed in 2019 .
Most crimes in the United States are heard in state courts , but some are handled by federal prosecutors, such as hate crimes , some particularly heinous crimes or those that take place on military installations or Native American reservations .