The Justice Department is releasing new regulations that allow for extended methods to execute federal prisoners, including by firing squad and electrocution, as the administration aims for the executions of several prisoners in the upcoming weeks before Joe Biden, who has signaled his opposition to the federal death penalty, could be sworn in.
The new rule is to be published in the Federal Register Friday and comes after the DOJ said last week that it plans to execute three more inmates sitting on federal death row, reports The New York Times.
Two other executions are already scheduled, so if the five are put to death, that will bring the total to 13 federal prisoners who have been executed since July. According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, this has been the most deadly period for the use of federal capital punishment since 1927.
The DOJ hasn’t indicated that it plans to use other methods for the executions instead of lethal injection, which has been the only form used for several decades.
The new rule will go into effect 30 days after Friday’s publication and before some of the scheduled executions would be carried out. It says that the government can conduct executions through lethal injection or by other manners prescribed by states where sentences were imposed.
All states using the death penalty still use legal injection, but some allow other methods. In Alabama, the prisoner can also choose to be put to death by electrocution or through a lethal dose of gas, and in Utah, a firing squad can be used if the substances needed for lethal injection are not available.
The Trump administration ended a nearly two-decade pause on federal executions, and lethal injections, with the use of a single chemical, pentobarbital, after the Supreme Court cleared the way for it in June.
The DOJ, when filing its initial version of the rule, said a state could one day require executions to be conducted by means other than lethal injection.
University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck told the Times that Biden, as president, could reverse the rule but still, it represents a “pretty gruesome” step for the DOJ to move forward with five scheduled executions at this time.