The US government will execute its first federal inmate in nearly two decades before the end of the year. Attorney General William Barr said the decision was meant to uphold "the rule of law."
The US government has said it will resume the use of capital punishment, after the Justice Department moved to reinstate the practice at the federal level on Thursday.
President Donald Trump has long been a proponent of the death penalty, which is also supported by six in 10 Americans, though support has declined since the 1990s. The last time a federal inmate was executed was in 2003.
"The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system," said Attorney General William Barr, as he announced the decision.
Capital punishment has been abolished in Europe, but it is still considered constitutional in the US. The Supreme Court struck the death penalty down in 1972 on technicalities, but since then some states have gradually made changes to state laws to restore it. Today, each state can make its own decision on the matter.
Currently, 25 states, including Florida and Texas have the death penalty, while 21 states, including New York and Illinois, have abolished it. California is one of four states where the death penalty is still legal, but a moratorium on the practice has been imposed, according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
Barr said Thursday that the review had concluded, clearing the way for executions to resume with a new procedure for lethal injections involving a single drug, as opposed to the previous three-drug cocktail.
Dianne Feinstein, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, has condemned Thursday's decision.
"The federal government should be leading the effort to end this brutal and often cruel punishment, not advocating for its return. It's time we evolve and put this terrible practice behind us," she said in a statement.
First execution this year
The first federal death row inmate scheduled for execution is Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of murdering a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl.
Lee's execution is set to take place on December 9. Lee's attorney, Morris Moon, has said "executing him would be a grave injustice" and urged the government to reconsider.