#21 Federal Death Penalty Update
It is no secret that the world has become a much different place, in the space of a very short time, due to the corona virus. Quarantine, stay at home orders, social distancing, and fear have become the new normal, and no aspect of life has escaped this influence.
Courts and prisons are no exception. The federal prisons have been locked down now since March, and the lockdown was just extended another 30 days last week, till at least June 18. Even in the midst of serious death penalty litigation, lawyers have not been granted access to their clients. With all this, combined with the fact that most law firms are shut down, the attorneys working from home, and many courts shut down as well, it was the opinion of most lawyers that nothing would occur in relation to death penalty cases, till after things had become somewhat normalized once more. So many men on death row had breathed a sigh of relief, at the respite.
But apparently the mindless malevolence of the government grinds on, regardless of the circumstance. One man was executed in the state of Missouri this past week, and things have been cleared for federal executions to resume soon.
Last month, the lawsuit which held up the federal executions since 2006, and which was expanded upon, in order to stop the most recent executions dates, was heard by a three-judge panel, in Washington, D.C. The arguments against it, some of which I listed in a previous article, and which had many in an optimistic frame of mind, were ruled against, one and all. It was not a huge surprise, as two of the three judges were conservatives, and are always likely to rule in favor of executions. It was the next stage where the lawyers involved believed they could win; an appeal to the "en banc" panel, on which every judge in the district would sit. Since the majority in that district are liberal judges, appointed in the Obama administration, they felt sure they could prevail there. At the very least, the attorneys believed those judges would delay things for a considerable amount of time, enough to allow further arguments to be developed, in the fight against the death penalty.
In a surprise move, on the 15th of May, the courts refused to grant an en banc hearing at all. It completely caught the legal teams involved by surprise, and has left everyone scrambling for a next move. As of now, the ruling from the three-judge panel is in place, and things are open for execution dates to be set once more.
No one can guess when this might come. But the five men scheduled previously for execution could find their dates reset as early as this week. All complaints by attorneys, about their inability to meet with clients, or to work effectively under the current lockdown conditions, have fallen on deaf ears. As of May 22nd, personal and legal visits are still cancelled for an unknown amount of time, and no provisions are being made for exceptions to this rule. Should executions go forward, the condemned will die without being allowed a final visit with their families. As far as any of us can discover, this will be a first in the history of US executions, and a new low for this country in human rights violations.
It should be pointed out that, with this lawsuit cleared, there are 23 other men on federal death row, whose appeals have run out. They are all now subject to executions dates, at any time the government may choose, and the door is open for a mass slaughter to begin.
Whether this will happen, or not, is anyone's guess. We will just have to wait and see what the future may hold.
Picture: Nixx Photography/ Shutterstock.com