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August 14, 2019

Oversight Subcommittee Investigates Trump Administration’s Decision to Resume Federal Executions


WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), member of the House Commitee on Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee, sent letters to the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) Hugh J. Hurwitz and Attorney General William P. Barr seeking documents and information regarding the Administration’s July 25, 2019, announcement that the Bureau would resume capital punishment.

“We are extremely concerned about the types of facilities from which the Bureau will obtain its pentobarbital, whether the Bureau will be able to guarantee that its intended method of execution is as painless as possible, and whether the Bureau will be subject to rigorous protocols to prevent the problems that have occurred at the state level,” Raskin and Pressley wrote.

On the same day as the July 25th announcement, Congresswoman Pressley introduced H.R.4052, legislation that would immediately ban the use of the death penalty by the federal government.

The Bureau will apparently be abandoning a controversial three-drug mixture in favor of a single drug—pentobarbital sodium—mirroring protocols used by Georgia, Missouri, and Texas.  Numerous reports document the dangers associated with pentobarbital and the difficulty in procuring reliable doses. 

Texas reportedly purchased its supply from a compounding pharmacy whose state license was on probation for providing dangerous drug mixtures to children; the same pharmacy was warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about “serious deficiencies in [its] practices for producing sterile drug products.”   

Additionally, though pentobarbital is supposed to be painless, five people executed in Texas using pentobarbital complained during their executions that they felt as if they were burning before they finally died.  One inmate yelled “I can feel that it does burn. Burning!”

The federal government has only executed three prisoners since 1963, and none since 2003.  The Trump Administration has now ordered five executions for December 2019 and January 2020.

Click here to read the letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Click here to read the letter to the Department of Justice.