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Justice Dept. rule change could allow gas, firing squads for US executions

Justice Dept. rule change could allow gas, firing squads for US executions
Posted at 2:11 PM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 16:11:28-05

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is quietly amending its execution protocols, no longer requiring federal death sentences to be carried out by lethal injection and clearing the way for other methods like firing squads and poison gas.

The amended rule, published Friday in the Federal Register, allows the U.S. government to conduct executions by lethal injection or use “any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed.”

A number of states allow other methods of execution. The amendment to the "manner of Federal Executions" rule gives federal prosecutors a wider variety of options for execution to avoid delays if the state in which the inmate was sentenced doesn't provide other alternatives.

The change also suggests that if the state where the crime occurred does not permit death sentences, a judge can designate another state with those laws and utilize their facilities to carry out the execution, according to CNN.

The rule change will take effect in about a month.

It remains unclear whether the Justice Department will seek to use any methods other than lethal injection for upcoming executions.

On Monday, South Carolina prison officials said they have to delay an execution scheduled for Friday because they won't be able to obtain the lethal injection drugs needed.

The South Carolina Supreme Court scheduled Richard Bernard Moore's execution for Friday after he exhausted his federal appeals. Moore has spent nearly two decades on death row for his conviction in the 1999 fatal shooting of a convenience store clerk in Spartanburg County.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections said in a letter to the state Supreme Court last week that it won't be able to find drugs by Friday. They have not been able to secure the drugs since their last stock expired in 2013. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the letter.

There are 28 states that allow federal and state executions, lethal injection is the primary manner of execution. At least nine of those states, according to CNN, allow for alternative methods such as electrocution, lethal gas, firing squad and hanging.