death penalty

Updated at 12:30 pm ET

A federal judge in Washington has blocked federal executions scheduled for this week, citing concerns that the lethal injection protocol involved is "very likely to cause extreme pain and needless suffering."

Judge Tanya Chutkan said the last-minute ruling only hours before executions were set to resume for the first time in 17 years was "unfortunate," but she blamed the Justice Department for racing ahead before legal challenges had been fully aired.

Capital punishment is on the decline in the United States, with only 13 new death sentences and seven executions so far this year.

But the U.S. Justice Department is moving in the other direction. Authorities are preparing the death chamber in Terre Haute, Ind., for the first federal executions in 17 years, starting Monday.

Death row inmates, their spiritual advisers and even one set of victims' relatives are moving to the courts to try to stop or delay the process. They're using a novel argument: the coronavirus pandemic.

okoffender.doc.ok.gov

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says the state Pardon and Parole Board has the authority to hold commutation hearings for death row prisoners. The AG made the announcement in response to a question from the Pardon and Parole Board.

The opinion should clear up confusion created after death row prisoner Julius Jones applied to be considered for commutation last year. Jones was convicted of murdering Edmond man Paul Howell in 1999.

Updated at 11:31 p.m. ET

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to the federal death penalty method, allowing the executions of four men scheduled in the coming weeks to go forward. They would be the first uses of the death penalty in federal cases since 2003.

The court's order was posted Monday. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor indicated that they would have considered the case.

After nearly two decades, the federal government will once again begin executing criminals, the Justice Department announced Monday. Four inmates convicted of murdering children are set to be put to death by lethal injection.

OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled against death row prisoners who complained the state gave them incomplete rules for how it would carry out executions in the future.

The prisoners’ attorneys said when the state released new execution protocols, it was supposed to share details on new training for execution teams. The plaintiffs also complained the state hadn’t shared details on a potential new execution method.

Nathaniel Woods, who was convicted in the 2004 killings of three Birmingham, Ala., police officers, was put to death using a lethal cocktail of drugs late Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court denied him reprieve.

Woods, 43, reportedly had no last words as the drugs flowed into his body. He was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. CST.

The three officers, Harley A. Chisholm III, Carlos "Curly" Owen and Charles R. Bennett, were killed in a hail of bullets as they sought to arrest Woods and another man, Kerry Spencer, at a suspected drug house in Birmingham.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The last executions in Oklahoma were embarrassing failures.

Before he died, Clayton Lockett writhed and moaned on his gurney. Charles Warner said his body was “on fire.” Richard Glossip’s execution had to be called off at the last minute.

Updated at 11:45 a.m. ET

A judge has blocked the U.S. government's plan to begin executing federal prisoners for the first time in nearly 20 years. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday halting four executions set to begin next month over concerns about the government's lethal injection method.

Federal prosecutors announced in August that they will pursue the death penalty against the man accused of killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue last October. They argued in a court filing that one reason the attack was especially nefarious was because it stemmed from the defendant's hatred for Jews.

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