By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. federal government announced Thursday it will resume enforcement of capital punishment for prisoners awaiting the death penalty after a 16-year hiatus.
Attorney General William Barr instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to end the informal moratorium and schedule executions for five federal prisoners who were sentenced to death for killing, and in some cases torturing, children and the elderly.
The executions will begin Dec. 9 with Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist convicted of the brutal murders of a family, including an 8-year-old.
The other four are scheduled to be carried out by Jan. 15, 2020, at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana.
"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,” Barr said in a statement announcing the policy shift.
While capital punishment is legal in the United States, the federal government had previously opted not to enforce it amid a review of lethal injection procedures began by former President Barack Obama in 2014 following a botched state execution.
Even prior to the review, federal executions were extremely rare, and the last one occurred in 2003.
Barr ordered the previously-employed three-drug cycle for lethal injection be replaced with the administration of pentobarbital, which the Justice Department said is currently used in the states of Georgia, Missouri and Texas for state executions.
The drug is used to treat insomnia, but can be lethal in high doses.
The Justice Department said its use in executions has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
There are currently 62 federal inmates on death row, according to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center.