The US government has executed 10 people this year — the most since 1896

UU., The government has executed more people than all 50 states, and the number of federal prisoners sentenced to death this year, 10, is the highest since President Grover Cleveland’s second term in office, according to The Death Penalty Information Center.

The group’s report, released Wednesday, said seven executions have been carried out at the state level in 2020, a 37-year low.
There were also fewer new death sentences imposed this year, 18, than in any other year “since the Supreme Court struck down all existing capital punishment statutes in the United States in 1972,” according to the report.
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Prior to this year, according to the group’s database, there had been no federal executions in the United States since 2003, and only three federal inmates had been executed since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988.
“No president in the 20th or 21st century before this year presided over double-digit executions in any calendar year. The Trump administration has carried out ten in the space of five months, ” Robert Dunham, executive director of The Death Penalty Information Center and lead author of the report, told CNN.
“You’d have to go back to 1896 and President Grover Cleveland’s second presidency to find so many federal civilian executions in a single year,” Dunham added.
In addition, no administration since Cleveland’s First Presidency has carried out multiple executions during a transition. At the time, the transition period lasted from November to March, compared to two and a half months now, Dunham explained.
“Traditionally, out of respect for the incoming administration, and because executions are a matter of life and death, executions were not carried out during a transitional period,” Dunham said.
The report noted that there were several anomalies with the actions of the US government this year.
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“By the end of 2020, the federal government had carried out more civilian executions in five months than any other presidency in the 20th or 21st centuries, carried out the first executions by a lame duck president in more than a century, and scheduled more executions than had ever occurred in a presidential transition period in U.S. history.”
Three more federal executions will be scheduled before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20.
Racial disparities in executions this year were similar to previous trends, according to the report, “with nearly half of defendants executed as people of color and 76% of executions for the death of white victims.”
“Racism has always infected the use of the death penalty and this year is no exception. The death penalty, as the most severe punishment, must be part of efforts to address racism in the criminal legal system as a whole, “said Ngozi Ndulue, senior director of research and Special Projects at DPIC and lead author of” enduring injustice: the persistence of racial discrimination in the U.S. death penalty.”
CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment.The Trump administration’s decision to resume federal executions after a 16-year hiatus was announced in July 2019 by now-outgoing Attorney General William Barr.
Barr at the time said the government was moving to seek justice against the “worst criminals” and provide relief to victims and family members.
According to the Justice Department statement, Barr ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt an execution protocol using a single-drug pentobarbital injection, replacing a three-drug procedure observed in the past.
“Since 2010, 14 states have used pentobarbital in more than 200 executions and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have repeatedly upheld the use of pentobarbital in executions as consistent with the Eighth Amendment,” the statement said.
According to Dunham, the administration’s hasty approach to resuming federal executions, particularly with respect to the execution protocol, was to the detriment of public and judicial oversight.
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Dunham also noted that the executions were carried out during the coronavirus pandemic, as some states issued stays and no executions were carried out at the state level on July 8.
“Everyone else knew it was more important to protect public health than to kill prisoners now, who could be executed when it was safe to do so later. Only the federal government moved forward with those executions.”
And in doing so, according to the report, the government’s actions “contributed to an outbreak (of coronavirus) at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, infected at least nine members of federal enforcement teams, and several lawyers and at least one religious advisor who hired COVID-19.”
The Death Penalty Information Center, Dunham explained, does not have a position on whether or not the death penalty should exist.
The first federal execution of 2020 was that of Daniel Lewis Lee, a white man convicted of murdering a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl. The execution took place on July 14 in Indiana after the Supreme Court overturned a lower court order temporarily blocking it.
More recently, two black men, Brandon Bernard and Alfred Bourgeois, were executed on December 10 and 11, respectively.
Bernard, 40, was the youngest person to be executed in the United States in nearly 70 years, according to the DPIC, and was sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was 18. His case caught the attention of celebrities and politicians, including Kim Kardashian West, who asked President Donald Trump to commute his sentence, and the Rev.
Federal executions, while they may get more attention this year, are a fraction of the bigger picture, according to Dunham.
“In the United States, there are only 52 people currently on federal death row. There are more than 2,500 people on (state) death row nationwide.”
Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee carried out one execution in 2020, while Texas executed three prisoners.
The number of executions statewide in 2020 appears to have been influenced by court closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is in line with long-term trends showing a national shift away from the death penalty, Dunham said.
A 2020 Gallup poll cited in the report shows the highest level of opposition to the death penalty among Americans since 1966, with 43% against and 55% in favor.
The data show a changing view compared to the 1990s, when support for the death penalty reached 80 per cent, and executions reached an all-time high in 1999 with 98 prisoners sentenced to death.
In March, Colorado became the latest state to abolish the death penalty, bringing the number of states that have done so to 22. Washington, DC has also abolished the death penalty. There are 12 states where there have been no executions in the past 10 years, including Louisiana and Utah, which reached that milestone this year, according to the report.
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2020 was also the year of a national calculation of racial injustice across the board and within the criminal justice system.
According to the report, candidates promising systemic reform have won prosecutorial careers in counties across the country that produced historically disproportionate numbers of death sentences or executions, such as Los Angeles County in California and Travis County in Texas, among others.
“Nearly 25% of the population sentenced to death are now in counties where prosecutors say they will not use the death penalty or significantly restrict its use. All of that suggests that the numbers will stay low in most of the country going forward,” Dunham told CNN.
The incoming Biden-Harris administration campaigned on a criminal justice plan that would seek to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and offer incentives to states to do the same.
On Tuesday, more than 40 members of Congress and elected representatives called on Biden to abolish the federal death penalty on his first day in office.
“With a stroke of your pen, you can stop all federal executions, ban U.S. attorneys from seeking the death penalty, dismantle death row at FCC Terre Haute, and call for resentment from people currently on death row,” the letter, written by Democratic Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, says.

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