Attorney General Merrick Garland Orders Halt To Federal Executions

Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images

Anders Hagstrom White House Correspondent
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Attorney General Merrick Garland has ordered a temporary halt to the scheduling of all federal executions, NBC News reported Thursday.

Garland reportedly made the order in the memo circulated through the Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday, calling the halt temporary. Former Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal death row to carry out executions in 2019, directing the use of a single powerful sedative for the executions. Prior to Barr, however, there had been no executions on the federal level in 17 years. The DOJ carried out 13 executions between July 2020 and January 2021, according to NBC News. (RELATED: US Executes First Federal Prisoner In 17 Years After Supreme Court Ruling)

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States but is also treated fairly and humanly,” Garland reportedly said in the memo.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 22: Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland listens during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on February 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Garland previously served at the Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

Garland’s order halts executions until the new lethal injection protocols enacted under Barr can be reviewed, according to NBC.

Importantly, however, the memo only ordered a halt to the scheduling of further executions and does not explicitly indicate that Garland’s DOJ will stop seeking the death penalty in criminal cases. Nor does the order impact the DOJ’s current involvement in defending the capital punishment case against convicted Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, according to NBC.

This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.