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I asked our team to pause for family time this week before kids return to school. The homepage is updated daily. The Digest returns on Monday, August 2. —Mark Alexander

Robin Smith / Jul. 29, 2019

Capital Crimes, Capital Punishment

AG Barr lifts the moratorium on the federal death penalty. Here are the first five offenders.

Attorney General William Barr has issued orders to end the 16-year moratorium on the federal death penalty and the execution dates have been set for men who’ve been prosecuted, convicted, and exhausted their appeals and other legal rebuttals to overturn their death sentence. While these five have not had the longest tenure on the list of 62 that compose the death-row roster, they each share something in common — they killed children in especially egregious ways as part of their crimes.

There are 61 males on federal death row: 26 white, 26 black, seven Latino, one Native American and one Asian, as well as one white female. The list holds inmates whose sentencing dates to 1997, but the five named by the Department of Justice to have their executions set are:

  • Alfred Bourgeois, who emotionally and physically tortured, as well as molested, his own daughter at the age of two and a half years before he beat her to death.

  • Dustin Lee Honken, who murdered two men set to testify against him, along with a single, working mom and her 10-year-old and six-year-old girls.

  • Daniel Lewis Lee, who robbed a family of three that included an eight-year-old girl, shooting each member of the family. But he didn’t stop there. He covered their heads with plastic bags, taped them at the throat with duct tape, and weighed the bodies down with rocks before dumping them in an Illinois swamp. Oh yeah, and he’s in a white-supremacist group.

  • Lezmond Mitchell, who stabbed his 63-year-old grandmother and took hostage a nine-year-old granddaughter. The young lady was forced to sit beside her dead grandmother for about a 40-mile drive before her own throat was slit twice, her head was bashed in with large rocks, and, like her grandmother, she had her hands and head severed. At least they were buried together.

  • Wesley Ira Purkey, who viciously raped and murdered a 16-year-old girl before dismembering her, burning her body parts, and dumping the remains in a septic pond. Purkey was also convicted in a second murder where he employed a claw hammer to bludgeon to death an 80-year-old crippled female afflicted with polio.

Barr, citing current law, explained that his motives transcended the focus on the rights of the convicted. “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. 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.”

Naturally, that won’t cut it for those advocacy groups who are focused on the rights of the convicted.

It’s interesting that in his guidelines, Barr ordered that the single drug, pentobarbital, be used as in Texas, Georgia, and Missouri. This single-drug protocol is exactly that which is used is assisted suicide, deemed so humane in the eyes of many on the political Left. But that doesn’t matter, right?

Another incongruous thought is that many who will be found among the critics of this revival of the death penalty are, themselves, of the opinion that the murder of the preborn — the innocent life in a mother’s womb — is humane, while a defense is mounted to protect individuals, far from innocent, whose capital crimes are deemed to have been excessively dark, vile, and deliberate.

States are moving away from death-penalty cases and they’re driven by financial considerations. According to data from the Death Penalty Information Center, non-death-penalty cases have a median cost of $740,000 while death-penalty cases cost about $1.26 million with tremendous strains on the victims’ families. But should cost drive justice or do we choose only to navigate a legal system to expedite and avoid the controversies?

Be ready for the commentaries and the talkingheads to seize upon these pending executions as “controversial” because they’re tied to Donald Trump’s attorney general. The trend we’re witnessing, however, is to strangely view the victims of murder as those whose lives taken from them find justice depending on the cultural plumb line or the budget.

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