Trump’s morbid death row legacy

 

If Joe Biden gets his way, there will never again be the need for the federal execution chamber at Terre Haute, Indiana.

The incoming President has made it clear that after his inauguration, he will eliminate the death penalty for federal death row inmates and encourage states still carrying out capital punishment to do the same.

But Donald Trump is still in power. And he is the first outgoing president in 100 years to reject the "normal rules of civility" which dictate all executions cease after election day.

It means he will add two more names to the list of Americans executed under his watch since he resumed death row executions after a 17-year hiatus in July.

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It is a departing blow to Mr Biden from the Trump campaign - one that experts say is a deliberate abuse of procedure followed by previous occupants of the Oval Office.

"This is another part of the Trump legacy that's inconsistent with American norms," said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre.

He told The New York Times: "If the administration followed the normal rules of civility that have been followed throughout the history in this country, it wouldn't be an issue. The executions wouldn't go forward."

As Time reports, the final executions of the Trump administration will be the first ever under a "lame duck" president in over 100 years.

On Friday, when Orlando Hall was put to death, he became the eighth person to be executed since July and the first since Trump lost the US election.

Hall, who kidnapped, raped and buried alive a 16-year-old girl, was given a cocktail of drugs for the execution. He told supporters through the glass window of the execution chamber, "I'm OK," and, "Tell my kids I love them."

The 49-year-old's execution went ahead despite a last-minute legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Next in line are Brandon Bernard, 40, and Lisa Montgomery, 51. Bernard and his accomplices brutally murdered two youth ministers, Todd and Stacie Bagley, on a military reservation in 1999, according the US Department of Justice.

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The offenders abducted the pair, bundled them into the boot of a car at gunpoint and parked it on the Fort Hood military reservation where they doused it with lighter fluid and lit it on fire.

Meanwhile, Montgomery stalked and killed a pregnant woman before cutting her baby from her uterus. She killed Bobbie Jo Stinnett in 2004 before stealing Ms Stinnett's baby and claiming it as her own.

She called friends and family to deliver the news that she had delivered a baby and ran errands the following day. Police knocked on her door the day after the crime and found her holding the baby on the couch.

If the executions go ahead as expected, Bernard and Montgomery could end up being the last two inmates ever executed at Terre Haute.

Robert Owen, a lawyer representing Bernard, said the last two federal inmates to be executed under Mr Trump were "essentially randomly selected offenders".

He told the Times it was "an arbitrary, unjust tragedy" to carry out the executions after Americans had voted for Mr Biden.

"How can we be killing people between now and January?" he said.

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Lisa Montgomery will be the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years. Picture: Wyandotte County Sheriff's Dept/AFP
Lisa Montgomery will be the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years. Picture: Wyandotte County Sheriff's Dept/AFP

 

"Those people are in effect caught in an eddy of history. They are being swirled around in an eddy that does not represent the main flow of American political opinion and social judgment about the death penalty."

Montgomery could still escape the gruesome fate because of a technicality.

As was widely reported over the weekend, her lawyers became infected with COVID-19 and have successfully organised for the execution to be moved from December 8 to December 31.

If she is executed, she will be the first woman executed by the federal government in 67 years.

Lawyers and advocates are working hard behind the scenes to have her death sentence commuted or her execution delayed until Mr Biden is in power.

More than 1000 advocates have signed letters urging Mr Trump to replace the death sentence with life without parole.

rohan.smith1@news.com.au | @ro_smith

Originally published as Trump's morbid death row legacy


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