The federal government is attempting to restart the practice of executions for the first time in 17 years. There are four executions scheduled for July and August.
In total, 340 people have been executed for federal crimes. Since 1927, only 37 people have been executed by the federal government.
After the Supreme Court imposed a moratorium on the death penalty with the Furman decision in 1972, the federal government did not reinstate the death penalty until The Anti-Drug Act of 1988.
Even with the broadening of the death penalty with The Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994, only 3 people have been executed since 1988 showing the rare use of the federal death penalty. The Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 outlines 60 crimes which qualify for the federal death penalty: espionage, treason, terrorist acts, and political assassinations.
Once criminals are sentenced with the death penalty, they are placed in maximum security prisons, such as Florence ADMAX or the US Penitentiary. The 1994 Act states that the method of execution should be determined by the state in which the execution takes place. The most commonly used method is lethal injection.
The most recent attempt to abolish the federal death penalty was in 2013, which was not successful. In 2017, Republicans tried to pass The Thin Blue Line Act which would make the murder of a police officer, firefighter, or first responder killed in federal jurisdiction an aggravating factor in federal cases.
Currently, there are 60 people on federal death row. Of those 60, only 1 faces charges of terrorism and the remaining 59 are not federally specific. These individuals have been caught in inter-state crimes. On the federal death row, 4 people have an intellectual disability, 3 have been diagnosed with severe mental illnesses, 6 have been sentenced to death on faulty evidence, 3 are gravely ill, and 5 were not responsible for killing the victim. These cases, in addition to many others, highlight some of the problems associated with our broken death penalty system.