Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Why is the Bush Administration (secretly?) accepting a de facto moratorium on federal executions?

Why is the Bush Administration (secretly?) accepting a de facto moratorium on federal executions?

In this post yesterday, I wondered why scheduled federal executions were not going forward (and also why this reality has received no media attention). Today I see that CDW here has confirmed that the federal execution of Bruce Webster, which had been scheduled for mid-April, was stayed (two months ago) through this little order. (Webster was sentenced to death more than 10 years ago for the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 16-year-old Lisa Rene.)

What makes the little order big news is that the Webster's motion for a stay was unopposed by the Justice Department, apparently because DOJ is content to have all federal executions on hold during litigation over lethal injection protocols. But, as I explained here yesterday, though perhaps it made sense to hold off on federal executions when the Supreme Court took up the Hill case, Hill was decided long ago. I see no obvious reason why the Bush Administration should now accept a de facto moratorium on federal executions.

Does the Bush Administration or some DOJ officials seriously question the constitutionality of its lethal injection protocol? If it doesn't, why agree to these stays? It is quite puzzling that the same administration and Justice Department that so steadfastly defends its procedures for GITMO detainees is not actively defending its procedures for executing convicted murderers.

Ironically, in this Washington Post column today, Richard Cohen attacks Alberto Gonzales for his long-ago role helping then-Texas Governor George Bush pursue a clemency policy that suggested that Texas "executions, almost no matter what, were to proceed." But, the real story the media should right now be exploring is the curious (and undefended?) reality that AG Gonzales is right now helping President Bush pursue a litigation policy that means that federal executions, no matter what, are not to proceed.

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