14 States Ask Supreme Court to Let Trump Administration Resume Federal Executions

December 4, 2019 Updated: December 4, 2019

A filing to the Supreme Court in support of the Trump administration’s move to restart federal executions was made by 14 states on Dec. 4.

All of the states allow capital punishment, which a number of other states no longer allow even for the most heinous crimes.

“Finality in criminal sentences is essential to promote the rule of law and to protect victims of capital offenses from further harm,” the states said in the brief, according to The Hill.

Five of the states—Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, and Texas—told the nation’s highest court that officials had used pentobarbital in executions.

The Trump administration announced earlier this year that it scheduled the first federal executions after a break of 16 years. Officials decided to use a single drug, pentobarbital, to carry out the executions, instead of a mix of several drugs that was increasingly hard to source.

But a federal judge blocked the executions from being carried out.

“Plaintiffs have clearly shown that, absent injunctive relief, they will suffer the irreparable harm of being executed under a potentially unlawful procedure before their claims can be fully adjudicated,” Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, an Obama-appointee, wrote in the ruling. She said that the government needs to use whatever methods the states use for executions under the Federal Death Penalty Act.

An appeals court ruled on Dec. 2 that the judge ruled correctly.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco filed an appeal the next day.

“The district court’s holding is meritless. For virtually the entire history of the United States, beginning with the Crimes Act of 1790, federal statutory references to the ‘manner’ of imposing the death penalty have been understood to refer only to the ‘mode of execution,’” Francisco wrote to the Supreme Court.

“Under the court’s reasoning, a State could effectively veto a federal execution simply by making unavailable state officials or resources that are required by state law for the execution. Even an otherwise-cooperative State could prevent a federal execution by declining to disclose certain execution procedures or drug sources,” he added.

The states backing President Donald Trump were Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

“We have an obligation to uphold the rule of law and ensure death sentences are carried out,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement. “We cannot become overly focused on the convicted criminals and lose sight of the innocent victims. An execution cannot bring them back, but it can help provide peace and closure for their loved ones and our community. The ultimate crime deserves the ultimate punishment because it’s what justice demands.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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