A dozen prisoners have joined the list of executions under federal supervision in the United States in 2020 after the resumption of this form of punishment last July, at the beginning a period of five months that has registered the highest number of executions under direct responsibility of the North American Government for a century, according to the data of the Penitentiary Office.
The United States resumed executions at the federal level in July on the orders of the country’s attorney general, William Barr, after a 16-year moratorium. Before Trump took office, only three federal executions had taken place in this period; the same ones that remain to be fulfilled until the end of the presidential transition, next January.
All were carried out under Republican President George W. Bush, and included inmate Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. Since 2003, there have been no federal executions at all, until now.
Barr argued that federal executions are contemplated by Congress and the latter are directed against those responsible for the murder, and sometimes torture and rape, of the most vulnerable in society, children and the elderly. “
Barr’s words marked the official announcement of the end of an informal moratorium on the death penalty since the 2003 execution of Louis Jones. However, capital punishment has continued to be applied in each of the 29 states in which it is contemplated.
The latest have been those of Brandon Bernard and, this Friday, Alfred Bourgeois, to make up a total of 10 of 17 executions carried out this year in the country, seven of them typical of each state, according to the Death Penalty Information Center group.
Bourgeois, 56, was executed for torturing and killing his 2-year-old daughter, while Bernard, 40, was executed Thursday for participating as a teenager in the 1999 kidnapping and murder of two religious.
The attorney general has explained that his Justice Department is simply abiding by existing law, but critics have said the move is concerning as it comes just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden, who has said he will seek end the death penalty, take office.
LITTLE PUBLIC SUPPORT
“We are facing an extremely unusual situation,” the director of the non-partisan Information Center on the Death Penalty, Ngozi Ndulue, lamented to the BBC, before recalling that popular opinion has also moved away from capital punishment.
In fact, a Gallup poll dated November 2019 found that 60 percent of Americans supported life in prison over the death penalty for the first time since the poll began more than 30 years ago. “Public support for the death penalty has been minimal for decades,” Ndulue said.
Popular pressure led Colorado to become the 22nd state to abolish the punishment earlier this year, but support from Republican Party supporters has remained largely stable since 2016, according to Gallup.
The criminal justice platform championed by the president-elect, Joe Biden, promises to reverse this trend with the intention of “eliminating the death penalty,” through the configuration of legislation to end it at the federal level “and encourage the states to follow the example of the Government. “
“The president-elect opposes the death penalty, now and in the future, and as president he will work to end its use,” said his spokesman, TJ Ducklo, in statements to the Axios portal.