The Death Penalty
November 1, 2019
Is the public turning against it?

Federal executions are scheduled to resume in December. The decision runs counter to long-term trends against capital punishment in the states and puts President Trump at odds with the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. At the Supreme Court, Trump’s two appointees have tilted the court toward the death penalty. But states continue to abolish or narrow the application of capital punishment, and some local prosecutors have refused to seek the death penalty or have asked courts to rule it unconstitutional. Some states have curtailed executions because of difficulty obtaining lethal injection drugs. And polls show public backing for the death penalty is declining, although a majority of U.S. adults continue to support it.

Abraham Bonowitz of Columbus, Ohio, joins fellow members of the Abolitionist Action Committee during an annual protest against the death penalty outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on July 1. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla) Abraham Bonowitz of Columbus, Ohio, joins fellow members of the Abolitionist Action Committee during an annual protest against the death penalty outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on July 1. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

The Trump administration plans to resume executing federal prisoners after a 16-year moratorium, bucking long-term trends against capital punishment and marking a sharp contrast with leading Democratic presidential candidates who oppose the death penalty.

Five men are scheduled to be executed, beginning Dec. 9 with Daniel Lewis Lee, convicted in the 1996 murders of a couple and their 8-year-old daughter in their Arkansas home. The fifth is planned for Jan. 15. More will follow, the Justice Department announced. The executions will occur at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., which houses 58 of the 62 federal prisoners sentenced to death. 1

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