WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of attorneys general from 14 states, lead by Arizona, in support of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (FBOP) protocol for executing death row inmates. In the Arizona-led filing with the Supreme Court, the States are asking the court to review a recent lower court ruling In the Matter of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Execution Protocol Cases.
In that matter, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to stay an injunction preventing the executions of federal prisoners.
The coalition includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
The federal government was previously scheduled to conduct its first execution since 2003 on Monday, December 9, 2019.
According to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the case originated with multiple death row inmates’ individual challenges to the FBOP’s 2019 execution protocol, but these were consolidated by the District Court for the District of Columbia. The district court issued its injunction after finding that the federal government did not have sufficient statutory authority for creating the protocol and violated the Administrative Procedures Act in doing so. The D.C. Circuit rejected the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for a stay of the injunction, which would have allowed the executions to proceed, so the federal government brought an emergency stay request to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We have an obligation to uphold the rule of law and ensure death sentences are carried out,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a press release. “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.”
The inmates scheduled to be executed have already lost the appeals of their convictions and have had the opportunity to bring multiple other actions for post-conviction relief. Most of them committed their murders in the 1990s and have spent decades bringing various claims through the court system, including actions such as this, intended to delay their executions.
The States argue in their brief that the injunction undermines state interests in the finality of lawful sentences and in protecting crime victims and their families against the psychological trauma caused by unreasonable delays. They note that the single dose of pentobarbital adopted by the FBOP protocol has been successfully used by 5 of the 14 states joining the brief, including Arizona, and is regarded as one of the most humane methods of execution by lethal injection. Additionally, the FBOP’s protocol helps states maintain the confidentiality of certain state information pertaining to lethal injection, a state interest upheld against challenge twice by federal courts in Arizona alone.