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July 30, 2011

DOJ changing lethal injection protocol, further delaying federal executions

Over at Politico, Josh Gerstein has this notable new piece headlined "Feds plan changes to death penalty procedure." Here are excerpts:

It's increasingly likely that President Barack Obama will serve out his entire first-term without presiding over the execution of a prisoner on federal death row, after the federal government decided to move forward with revisions to its death penalty procedures.

The Justice Department informed a federal judge Thursday about its plans to revise the so-called protocol for executions.  Government lawyers gave no reason for the changes, but they likely stem from a shortage of the key drug used in most lethal injection executions in recent decades, sodium thiopental.

"The Federal Bureau of Prisons has decided to modify its lethal injection protocol but the protocol revisions have not yet been finalized," government lawyers wrote in a court filing in a case challenging the constitutionality of the federal execution process.  The Justice Department offered no timeline for completing the new protocol, but offered to update the court monthly on the progress.  A spokeswoman for the department said she had no information beyond the brief statement in the court filing.

Federal executions have been effectively halted since 2006, when a judge blocked executions for three inmates.  Three additional prisoners have been subsquently added to the injunction....

Since the Justice Department agrees that the prisoners who brought the challenge to the current protocol will be entitled to detailed information about the protocol and how it was developed, it seems likely that the legal process of green lighting it could extend through next fall's election....

Just last December, the Justice Department said it was ready to move forward with setting an execution date for Jeffrey Paul, who was convicted in 1997 of the shooting death of a retired, 82-year-old National Park Service employee, Sherman Williams.  However, no execution date was ever set for Paul, who is not covered by the injunction....

Unlike his two predecessors who had served as governors before coming to the White House, Obama has never presided over an execution or the question of whether to grant a reprieve to someone on death row. He does have some familiarity with the issue, though, since he pursued death penalty reform as a state legislator in Illinois.

July 30, 2011 at 01:04 AM | Permalink

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Comments

lol need to change this just a little!

"It's increasingly likely that President Barack Obama will serve out his entire first-term without presiding over the execution of a prisoner on federal death row, after the federal government decided to move forward with revisions to its death penalty procedures."

should have been!

It's increasingly likely that President Barack Obama will serve out his entire ONLY term without presiding over the execution of a prisoner on federal death row, after the federal government decided to move forward with revisions to its death penalty procedures.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 30, 2011 12:54:43 PM

rodsmith --

There is evidence you're spot on with this one.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/148487/Republican-Candidate-Extends-Lead-Obama.aspx

The most recent poll I can find, from the Pew Research Center, has Obama ahead of a Republican rival 41-40. But this was after Obama led by 11 in May and 10 in March.

The mood of the country is sour and pessemistic, never good news for an incumbent President.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 30, 2011 3:59:01 PM

rodsmith and Bill Otis

let's be realistic here. It's the federal government we are talking about here. Even if Obama did win a second term, I would not be surprised if he didn't preside over any executions.

I got amused a few months ago when the silly media made comments that Obama would be ordering Hasan's execution if he got the death penalty. Obama will be long gone by then. We will have a President who most likely is unknown to us now.

Posted by: DaveP | Jul 30, 2011 5:03:01 PM

No matter who won in 2008 or wins in 2012 the execution protocol had to be changed, sodium thiopental is unavailable for state sponsored homicide. And as a general rule, incumbents win reelection at a rate well above 70%.

Posted by: I am anonymous | Jul 30, 2011 5:46:39 PM

I am anonymous --

"...as a general rule, incumbents win reelection at a rate well above 70%."

As a specific rule, over the last 45 years, incumbents won reelection at a rate exactly equal to 50%, and none of them was running with unemployment over 9%, anemic if any economic growth, a national debt exceeding $14 trillion, foreclosures galore, three unpopular wars going on at the same time, and the right track/wrong track figure in the tank.

And if your answer is that the Republican candidates all have quite visible flaws, let me remind you that the Republican candidate in, say, the 1980 election, was an over-the-hill Grade B actor who was going to start World War III the day he took office.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 30, 2011 6:24:56 PM

how true bill. but what's really sad about it is we can now look back at all the presidents since that out of work actor became president and most of those who predated him in the prior 40 years or so and realize out of them all he was probably the BEST OF THE BUNCH!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 31, 2011 11:45:08 AM

rodsmith --

Indeed he was!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 1, 2011 12:38:26 PM

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