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Justice Department will execute inmates for first time since 2003

Justice Dept. to execute death row inmates
Justice Department to execute death row inmates 01:54

The federal government is bringing back capital punishment after more than 16 years without a single federal execution, Attorney General William Barr announced on Thursday.

Barr has directed the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to adopt a change to the federal execution protocol to make it possible to execute inmates on death row. Barr has directed the BOP's Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz to schedule executions for five convicted murderers, and the Justice Department says more executions will be scheduled soon. The last federal execution was that of Louis Jones, Jr. in March 2003. 

The historic move reflects the Trump administration's tough-on-crime stance, and the president's own vocal support of the death penalty. 

"Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people's representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President," Barr said in a statement. 

He went on to point out that the Justice Department, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, "has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals." Pointing to "five murderers" convicted by juries, he added, "The Justice Department upholds the rule of law—and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system."

In office, Mr. Trump has frequently expressed his support for the death penalty, both as president and before. He's spoken favorably of the death penalty for drug dealers. 

Asked on Twitter if he supports the death penalty in May 2013, Mr. Trump tweeted in all caps, "YES!" 

"Who says the death penalty is not a deterrent?" Mr. Trump tweeted also in May 2013.

The addendum to the execution protocol Barr is implementing replaces the three-drug procedure that has been used in federal executions with one drug, pentobarbital, according to the Justice Department. 

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