Is Trump bringing back the firing squad and electric chair? POTUS rushing in policy changes before leaving office
Though the measures are unlikely to be successful once Joe Biden takes over, the outgoing administration has been slammed for its priorities in pandemic times
With his days in the office numbered, President Donald Trump is rushing with a number of administrative policy changes and some of them have shocked the observers. According to a report from ProPublica, the policy changes include, among others, bringing back firing squads and electrocution as methods of federal executions.
In August, the justice department entered a proposed change of rule into a federal register. It cleared a White House review earlier in November and now, Trump could authorize the policy before his term ends in January. According to the ProPublica report, the proposal to reintroduce firing squads and electrocution “has raced through the process with little notice but unusual speed — and deadly consequences”.
While federal executions are mostly carried out by the use of lethal injection, unless a judge orders otherwise, the administration claims that “death by firing squad and death by electrocution do not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment”, as per the proposed change of rule.
The proposal’s argument goes like this: “In recent US Supreme Court litigation involving Eighth Amendment challenges to execution by lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia and firing squad have been identified as potential alternative methods of execution, including by prisoners themselves, that might – or even must– be used instead of lethal injection, in particular because those methods allegedly carry a lesser risk of pain.” ProPublica said the rule to bring back the older methods could give the government more options for executive capital punishment as drugs used in lethal injections go out of availability. “The Justice Department surfaced the proposal in August and accepted public comments for only 30 days, instead of the usual 60. The rule cleared White House review on November 6, meaning it could be finalized any day,” the ProPublica report said, adding that the justice department refused to comment on the matter.
Joe Biden little likely to back the policy changes
The rushed policy changes, however, could find little backing from the incoming administration of Joe Biden. The president-elect doesn’t support death penalty and has already given a signal that he could opt for eliminating capital punishment for those convicted for felony and stop federal executions, something current Attorney General William Barr has pursued aggressively since assuming office last year. The current administration executed a federal prisoner named Daniel Lee in Indiana on November 19 and plans to do five more before Inauguration Day -- all with lethal injections. Once Biden takes over as the president after that, the return to the past is less likely to be a reality.
The Trump administration’s efforts to bring back the harsh means of execution have faced a backlash. Bill Pascrell, the 83-year-old Democratic representative from New Jersey who wants Trump to be prosecuted, said in a tweet responding to one posted by ProPublica Managing Editor Charles Ornstein that at a time when several thousands of Americans are dying in a resurgent wave of the pandemic, the “gangsters” of the Trump regime were busy bringing back the electric chair and spew more poison in the air. He also slammed the Republican Party saying it is “unfit to govern”.
Over 2,000 American died yesterday and 266,000 are dead and the gangsters in this regime are focused on bringing back the electric chair and making it easier to spew poison in the air. The republican party is unfit to govern. https://t.co/KV8KmXqdv8— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) November 25, 2020
Matthew Kant, who looks after the regulatory policy for Public Citizen, a left-leaning advocacy group, accused the Trump administration of trying to leave things in a mess for Biden’s team to sort out. “The bottom line is the Trump administration is trying to get things published in the Federal Register, leaving the next administration to sort out the mess. There are some real roadblocks to Biden being able to wave a magic wand on these,” Kant told ProPublica.
New York Times columnist and CBS News analyst Jamelle Bouie called the move in a tweet as "truly grotesque".
this rush to execute people, and reintroduce old ways of doing it, is truly grotesque https://t.co/t3dUYipUI3— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) November 25, 2020
Trump’s several initiatives in the foreign policy domain, like considering a missile strike on Iran’s main nuclear site earlier this month, have also been seen as deliberate measures to make things difficult for the succeeding administration.
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