The U.S. Justice Department is quietly amending its execution protocols, no longer requiring federal death sentences to be carried out by lethal injection and clearing the way to use other methods like firing squads and poison gas.
The amended rule, published Friday in the Federal Register, allows the U.S. government to conduct executions by lethal injection or use “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.” A number of states allow other methods of execution, including electrocution, inhaling nitrogen gas or death by firing squad.
It remains unclear whether the Justice Department will seek to use any methods other than lethal injection for executions in the future. The rule – which goes into effect on Dec. 24 – comes as the Justice Department has scheduled five executions during the lame-duck period, including three just days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
A Justice Department official said the change was made to account for the fact the Federal Death Penalty Act requires sentences be carried out in the “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed,″ and some of those states use methods other than lethal injection.
The official said two executions scheduled in December would be done by lethal injection but didn’t provide information about three others scheduled in January.
Main Photo: A sign points to the Federal Correctional Complex, where the federal execution chamber is located, in Terre Haute, Indiana, USA. EPA-EFE/TANNEN MAURY
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