Jus­tices won’t stop four fed­eral ex­e­cu­tions

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Richard Wolf

WASH­ING­TON – The Supreme Court cleared the way Mon­day for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­sume fed­eral ex­e­cu­tions for the first time in 17 years.

The jus­tices de­nied a chal­lenge from four con­victed mur­der­ers who ar­gued that fed­eral ex­e­cu­tions must ad­here to the specific pro­to­cols used by the states where each man was sen­tenced, in­clud­ing the method of ex­e­cu­tion.

As­so­ciate Jus­tices Ruth Bader Gins­burg and Sonia So­tomayor said they would have heard the chal­lenge.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr an­nounced last year that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would con­duct its first ex­e­cu­tions since 2003 us­ing the sin­gle drug pen­to­bar­bi­tal.

The drug is used in many but not all states.

Fed­eral District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the ex­e­cu­tions would conflict with pro­vi­sions of a 1994 fed­eral law, un­der which the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to fol­low pro­to­cols used by the states in which the pris­on­ers were sen­tenced. That rul­ing was up­held by a three- judge fed­eral ap­peals court panel.

Four­teen states led by Ari­zona had sided with the Jus­tice Depart­ment, telling the high court that pen­to­bar­bi­tal “is a fast- act­ing bar­bi­tu­rate that can re­li­ably in­duce and main­tain a coma- like state that ren­ders a per­son in­sen­sate to pain.”

The Supreme Court tem­po­rar­ily blocked the ex­e­cu­tions in De­cem­ber but said it ex­pected the chal­lenge would be han­dled by the ap­peals court “with ap­pro­pri­ate dis­patch.”

Three con­ser­va­tive as­so­ciate jus­tices – Sa­muel Al­ito, Neil Gor­such and Brett Ka­vanaugh – in­di­cated at the time that they ex­pected the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to pre­vail within 60 days, and the ex­e­cu­tions could go for­ward.

A three- judge ap­peals court panel in­clud­ing two of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nees al­lowed the ex­e­cu­tions to pro­ceed, prompt­ing the lat­est Supreme Court pe­ti­tion. Barr then di­rected the fed­eral Bureau of Pris­ons to sched­ule four ex­e­cu­tions, in­clud­ing for three of the in­mates in­volved in the on­go­ing lit­i­ga­tion. They are slated for July 13- 17 at the U. S. Pen­i­ten­tiary in Terre Haute, In­di­ana.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr an­nounced last year that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would con­duct its first ex­e­cu­tions since 2003 us­ing the sin­gle drug pen­to­bar­bi­tal. JACK GRUBER/ US­ATO­DAY

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