Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Police officers gather to remove activists during an anti death penalty protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Police officers gather to remove activists during an anti death penalty protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

'Abdicating Its Moral Responsibility,' SCOTUS Paves Way for Resumption in Federal Executions

"The death penalty has no place in a just society," said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass).

Andrea Germanos

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for federal executions to resume following a 17-year pause after it denied to hear a challenge from death row prisoners over the Trump administration's lethal injection protocol.

"At a moment when people around the country are demanding justice, equality, and accountability, clearing the way for federal executions is a mistake," tweeted the ACLU. 

The order (pdf) from the high court indicates that liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have heard the challenge.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr last year directed the Bureau of Prisons to resume capital punishment, with pentobarbital as the sole drug for the lethal injections.

Author and anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean said court's decision "means that the federal government will likely execute four people beginning month using an untested lethal injection protocol during a global pandemic without any real oversight from the Supreme Court. All of this is against the wishes of at least one victims' family."

Three federal executions are currently scheduled for July and one for August. All the state-sanctioned killings are scheduled to take place at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The high court's decision doesn't mark the end of the road for the inmates' legal challeges, as they're "separately asking a federal judge in Washington to impose a new delay on their executions over other legal issues that have yet to be resolved," as the Associated Press reported.

The last federal execution took place in 2003. And, according to California Innocence Project director Justin Brooks, it should be the last.

"The Supreme Court must eventually rise above the fear driven politics in the USA and bring us in line with the rest of the civilized world when it comes to the #DeathPenalty," Brooks tweeted. "It is a human rights violation."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Appeals Court Orders Release of Secret Memo Barr 'Used to Undercut the Mueller Report'

While the DOJ has not announced whether it will appeal, a spokesperson for the watchdog behind the case said that "the American people deserve to know what it says. Now they will."

Jessica Corbett ·


Trans Girls in Utah Can Play School Sports After Judge Blocks Discriminatory Law

"Our daughter just wants the same chance as other kids to make friends and play on the team she loves," said one parent plaintiff. "Today's ruling gives her the opportunity to do that."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Deeply Dangerous Nonsense': Treasury Dept. Debunks GOP Lies About 87,000 Armed IRS Agents

The intensity with which Republicans "are coming at this is really a testament to how important these resources are going to be—because there are many wealthy tax evaders that stand to lose a lot," said one official.

Kenny Stancil ·


Michigan Judge Blocks Enforcement of 'Dangerous and Chilling' 1931 Abortion Ban

The decision is a "welcome" development "but our work continues," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, vowing to use "every tool in my toolbox to fight like hell for women and healthcare providers."

Jessica Corbett ·


Tlaib Says Biden Must 'Hold Israel Accountable' for Raid on Palestinian Rights Groups

"The silence by our country is enabling more death and violence," said the U.S. congresswoman.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo