People on federal death row could be executed by firing squad or electrocution, if a U.S. Department of Justice rule becomes final.
In the waning days of the Trump administration, US DOJ is both expediting the number of federal executions and expanding the methods of how executions can be carried out. Currently, states and the federal government use lethal injection to execute people, but because of a shortage of the drugs — and questions about how they’re administered — have curtailed the number of executions in the U.S. Of the 1,054 executions by lethal injection carried out by both state and federal officials through 2014, 54 — or 7% — were “botched,” according to a book by Amherst College jurisprudence professor Austin Sarat. That means there were “unanticipated problems or delays that caused, at least arguably, unnecessary agony for the prisoner or that reflect gross incompetence of the executioner.”
Five people, including one woman, currently on federal death row are scheduled to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Brandon Bernard, a Black man who was 18 at the time of the crime, is scheduled to be put to death on Dec. 10. A former assistant U.S. Attorney in Texas, who co-prosecuted Bernard 20 years ago, recently wrote an op-ed saying he should live. Bernard was involved in a carjacking and murder of a married couple in Texas, but did not kill them. His co-defendant, Christopher Vialva, was executed by the federal government in September.
Biden, who has said he will prohibit further federal executions, will likely reverse the Trump administration’s rule.
Here are facts about those on federal death row:
54 — Number of people currently on federal death row
8 — Number executed so far, 2020
5 — Number scheduled to be executed before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in January
3 — Number of people executed, 2000-2019
34 — From 1927-1988
88 — Number of people killed by those currently on federal death row
2 — Number of people on federal death row who were given a reprieve and are awaiting new sentencing
3 — Number of people on federal death row whose crimes were committed in North Carolina
24 — Number of people on death row who are Black
22 — Number who are white
7 — Latinx
1 — Asian
1 — Number of women on federal death row
27 — Longest amount of time on federal death row, in years, among those currently incarcerated
25 — Number of states in which the death penalty is still on the books, including North Carolina
137 — Number of people on North Carolina’s death row
22 — States that have abolished capital punishment
3 — States with a governor-imposed moratorium on executions
Source: US Department of Justice, Death Penalty Information Center