The federal government hasn't executed an inmate in 16 years. But that could change.
On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the Justice Department to set execution dates for five of the 62 inmates who stand convicted of federal capital crimes and sentenced to death.
There have only been three inmates executed by the federal government since it reinstated the death penalty in 1988. The last was in 2003.
"Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people's representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the president," Barr said in a prepared statement.
"The Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding. 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," he added.
Capital punishment is controversial and these days most states shy away from it—Texas being a noticeable exception. And it's something that cannot be taken lightly. The process is slow for a reason. Once carried out, you can't undo the ultimate punishment.
But there is a time for that punishment. After the sentence is passed there is the appeals process. The condemned have their justice. But when the appeals are exhausted, there are still family and friends of the victims waiting for their justice.
Now, thanks to Barr and the Trump administration, it looks like that justice will finally come.