Department of Justice asked to investigate federal executions under Trump

'This spree of executions marks a break with both modern history and decades-old practice.'

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Several Democratic senators are calling for an investigation into why the Trump administration revived the federal death penalty after a 17-year hiatus. 

In July, Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of the mass murder of the Mueller family in the late 1990s, was the first execution in more than a decade. Since then, the Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr has executed 10 federal inmates. Three more are scheduled to die days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, NBC News reports. 

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“This spree of executions marks a break with both modern history and decades-old practice,” the eight senators wrote in a letter on Tuesday to Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Department of Justice (DOJ). “Prior to the Trump Administration’s revival of federal executions, the federal government had not executed a federal prisoner since 2003 and has only executed three people in the previous 50 years,” the letter states. 

The group continued, “And the executions that have and are scheduled to occur after November 3, 2020 are ‘the first executions under a “lame duck” president in over 100 years,’ and come despite the fact that President-elect Joe Biden has said he intends to end the use of capital punishment by the federal government while in office.” 

The letter was signed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio.), per The Hill

“President Trump’s execution spree during his final days in office is horrific and unprecedented, and holding these executions during a global pandemic puts families and federal prison officials at increased risk of contracting Covid-19,” said Warren.

Read More: Justice Department seeks to authorize firing squad executions

The letter comes amid growing concerns raised by attorneys and prison reform advocates over the spread of the coronavirus linked to executions. According to reports, eight individuals of a federal execution team tested positive for the potentially deadly virus after a man was put to death in November.

“The current administration has weaponized capital punishment with callous disregard for human life,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) wrote in a separate letter sent last week urging Biden to abolish the death penalty once he’s in office, the report states.

Barr said in July that the individuals scheduled for death are among “the worst criminals” in the nation.

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