Despite a district court’s stop of planned lethal injections, the Trump administration is pushing the U.S. Supreme Court to start federal executions up again. There have not been federal executions for nearly two decades.
On Nov. 20, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia wrote a preliminary injunction blocking the executions of four inmates to allow their appeals to make their way through the system. Chutkan also wrote that the lethal injection procedure proposed “very likely exceeds” the government’s authority under federal law.
Chutkan used the Federal Death Penalty Act as an example. She wrote that executions should be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the State in which the sentence is imposed.”
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Over the summer, Attorney General William P. Barr announced the federal lethal injection procedures would use only one drug, pentobarbital, rather than a combination of three drugs that was previously used, according to The Washington Post.
On Monday, the Justice Department argued in its application that Chutkan’s interpretation of the law is “implausible” and a “flawed injunction against the implementation of lawful executions.”
But a panel of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals all agreed that the Justice Department’s appeal to Chutkan’s injunction had “not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal.
Of the three judges that issued the ruling, one was appointed by President Donald Trump, another by former President George W. Bush and the third by former President Bill Clinton.
“We are gratified that the Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court that there is no basis to vacate the preliminary injunction in this case,” Shawn Nolan, one of the attorneys representing some of the death-row inmates, said in a statement obtained by the Post. “The courts have made clear that the government cannot rush executions in order to avoid judicial review of the legality and constitutionality of its new execution procedure.”