U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has imposed a moratorium on federal executions due to a Justice Department review of the death penalty

In the statement, Garland said: “The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely. That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

Former Attorney General William Barr green-lit the use of capital punishment last year after a 17-year hiatus, resulting in 13 executions during the COVID-19 pandemic, exceeding the number of executions undertaken by any presidential administration since the 1800s.

The Bureau of Prisons used a single-drug protocol for lethal injections under Trump’s administration. Now, Garland has called for Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco to lead a review of “the risk of pain and suffering associated with the use of pentobarbital,” the drug used for executions.

“It is one step in the right direction, but it is not enough,” Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project, said of the moratorium imposed by Garland. “President [Joe] Biden, with the support of the Department of Justice, can and should commute all federal death sentences.”

Biden stated during his campaign that he would support ending the federal death penalty, but he has yet to make good on that promise.

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