In 2019, Attorney General William Barr moved to reinstate the federal death penalty, emphasizing the Trump administration’s strict public order philosophy. At that time, he directed the head of the Prison Office to execute five inmates who he said were the “worst offenders”.
The Bureau of Prisons has adopted a new lethal injection protocol consisting of a single drug, pentobarbital.
The federal detainees involved in the appeal were Daniel Lewis Lee, who killed a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl; Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and killed a 16-year-old girl; Alfred Bourgeois, who tortured and killed his 2-year-old daughter; and Dustin Lee Honken, who shot and killed five people, including two girls.
Although the order was not signed, judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor stated that they would listen to the challenge.
“Prisoners in these cases have other challenges that have not yet been fully decided, but this was perhaps the central legal objection to Barr̵
Chutkan said the public interest did not serve as “the execution of individuals before they have had the opportunity to use legitimate procedures to challenge the legality of their executions”.
Prison attorneys said that the government is trying to move the matter forward, although it has taken eight years to create a new enforcement protocol.
“Since announcing the protocol on July 25, 2019, the government has accelerated the process to execute executions without significant judicial review of the legality and constitutionality of the new enforcement procedures,” said Cate Stetson, a lawyer for the detainees.