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article imageTrump administration seals legacy with 13 federal executions

By Karen Graham     Jan 16, 2021 in Politics
Five people have been executed in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's January 20 inauguration -breaking with a 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition. Trump's administration has overseen 13 executions since July.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, the Trump administration carried out its 13th federal execution of Dustin Higgs, 48, at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized the Trump administration for the recent spate of federal executions in an opinion published on Friday, according to Newsweek.
SCOTUS, in a 6-3 ruling allowed the execution of Dustin Higgs to go ahead late on Friday. Sotomayor, along with justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented.
"After seventeen years without a single federal execution, the Government has executed twelve people since July," she wrote. "They are Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, Dustin Honken, Lezmond Mitchell, Keith Nelson, William LeCroy Jr., Christopher Vialva, Orlando Hall, Brandon Bernard, Alfred Bourgeois, Lisa Montgomery, and, just last night, Corey Johnson. Today, Dustin Higgs will become the thirteenth."
As the BBC points out, the 13 executions have now given Trump the unwanted distinction of becoming the country's most prolific execution president in more than a century. On top of that legacy, we can add that the five executions leading up to the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week breaks with a 130-year precedent of pausing executions during a presidential transition.
Sotomayor was especially critical of the Department of Justice and former Attorney General William Barr. Ending the 17-year ban on executions at the federal level has created "legal uncertainty" with the 2019 protocol authorizing the executions, she said, adding, "the DOJ did not tread carefully."
In July 2019, AG Barr announced the scheduled executions of five death row prisoners, despite prevailing practices and public opinion. At that time, Barr said: "Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty. 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."
"Throughout this expedited spree of executions, this Court has consistently rejected inmates' credible claims for relief," Sotomayor wrote. "The Court has even intervened to lift stays of execution that lower courts put in place, thereby ensuring those prisoners' challenges would never receive a meaningful airing."
The five executions that have taken place preceding the inauguration of Biden are thought to be politically motivated by many critics of the death penalty, particularly because Biden has promised to push for legislation eliminating federal executions entirely and to encourage states to do the same.
More about Trump legacy, federal executions, 13 in 7 months, 17year hiatus
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