The Trump administration is aiming to bring back firing squads and electrocutions for some federal executions

Posted 100 days ago


Anti-death penalty protesters ring a bell at the scheduled execution time as they gather across the street from the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020.

The Trump administration is rushing to make a number of federal regulatory changes before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20, ProPublica reported on Wednesday.

One of those changes, proposed by the Department of Justice, would allow some federal death-row inmates to be executed by means other than lethal injection. Many states allow for electrocution and the firing squad if lethal injection is not available or if another method is preferred by the prisoner.

Eight federal death-row inmates have been executed since the DOJ resumed federal executions in July 2020, with five more federal executions scheduled during Trump's lame-duck period.

As ProPublica noted, the rule change likely won't affect any executions, given that the remaining scheduled executions are set to be conducted via lethal injection before Biden, who opposes the use of the death penalty, begins his presidency.

The Trump administration is rushing to finalize a number of regulatory changes before President Donald Trump leaves office next month, including one that could reauthorize the use of firing squads and electrocutions in federal executions, ProPublica reports. A proposed rule change entered by the Department of Justice into the Federal Register on August 5 would alter the method of execution of death-row prisoners. As the proposal notes, the default method for federal executions is lethal injection, except if a judge explicitly orders otherwise. But many states with the death penalty permit executions to be carried out by other means, including by electrocution, a firing squad, or nitrogen hypoxia. Tennessee, for example, executed a death-row prisoner with electrocution in December 2019. The amended rule would essentially allow federal executions to be conducted using methods other than lethal injections in states that allow for other means of putting prisoners to death.

While lethal injection was initially presented as a more humane and less violent method of execution than the electric chair or a firing squad, certain lethal injection drugs or problems with administering them have led to complications and some botched injections, causing painful deaths for inmates. The proposed rule change document notes that "death by firing squad and death by electrocution do not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment" under the prevailing Sup... (Read more)