Donald Trump is poised to set a grim record for overseeing the most executions during a presidential transition.
The Trump administration is rushing to execute an unprecedented number of people before President-elect Joe Biden, an opponent of the death penalty, takes office on January 20.
Unless he grants requests for commutations, President Trump will leave office having set a grim record for overseeing the most executions of federal prisoners during a presidential transition period in U.S. history, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The Trump administration has already executed eight people by lethal injection since July, when the federal government resumed executions after a 17-year hiatus.
On Friday, one day after carrying out the first federal execution under a “lame duck” president in 131 years, the Department of Justice announced its intention to execute three more people incarcerated at the Terre Haute federal prison in Indiana. This brings the total number of people scheduled to be executed before Trump leaves office to five, including Lisa Montgomery, a survivor of extreme sexual violence who suffers from mental illness and would be the first woman to be executed on the federal level in nearly six decades.
“We’re really in the middle of an unprecedented execution spree,” said Allison Cohen, a spokesperson for the anti-death penalty group Death Penalty Action, in an interview.
The last time a federal execution was carried out under a “lame duck” president was in 1889, after President Grover Cleveland lost his first bid at reelection, the Death Penalty Information Center reports. The seven executions carried out by the Trump administration in the four-month period leading up to the November elections outnumber those carried out by any presidential administration over the past 78 years. At the same time, states are on pace to perform the fewest number of executions in nearly four decades.
Cohen said the federal executions already carried out since July “line up perfectly” with the campaign season, allowing the Trump campaign to boast about the president’s supposed “law and order” credentials. A regulation proposed by the Trump administration on Wednesday would allow the federal government to execute people by methods besides lethal injection — including by firing squad, according to Death Penalty Action.
“From what we can tell, this has been just another way for Trump to break a record and have something to email his followers,” Cohen said.
While a majority of Americans prefer life sentences in prison to the death penalty, 58 percent of Republicans still support killing incarcerated people, according to a 2019 Gallup poll. Meanwhile, a growing number of advocates are pushing for an end to both the death penalty and life-without-parole sentences, which they call “death by incarceration.”
Biden has said he opposes the death penalty and will work to end capital punishment on the federal level, as well as provide incentives for the 28 states that still allow the death penalty to change their laws, according to Cohen. The Trump administration, Cohen said, appears to be pushing to execute people before Biden has a chance to reverse decisions made by the Department of Justice or grant them commutations — which would spare the prisoners’ lives, but would not absolve them of guilt or free them from prison.
Of all the current death row cases, Montgomery’s has gained the most attention as she is the first woman to face a federal execution in decades. Before her incarceration, Montgomery was traumatized by years of horrific sexual violence and abuse and developed severe mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder with psychotic features and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to advocates and her sister, Diane Mattingly.
Read the remainder of the story here: https://www.salon.com/2020/11/27/trump-is-on-a-death-row-killing-spree-bill-barr-now-wants-to-bring-back-firing-squads_partner/