The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday launched an investigation into the government’s decision to resume federal executions.
Saying they were concerned about the type of drug being used to administer the death penalty, two committee lawmakers sent letters asking Attorney General William Barr and Federal Bureau of Prisons Acting Director Hugh J. Hurwitz for more information.
Last month, the Justice Department announced it would resume executing death-row inmates for the first time since 2015. Mr. Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions starting in December for five men, all accused of murdering children.
But Democrats say they are concerned about the Bureau of Prisons abandoning the three-drug cocktail typically administered during lethal injection for a single drug, pentobarbital sodium.
Pentobarbital sodium is used in three states, but the Democrats say it is too unreliable and unsafe to use in executions.
“Numerous reports document the dangers associated with pentobarbital and the difficulty procuring reliable doses,” Reps. Jamie Raskin, Maryland, and Ayanna Preslsey, Massachusetts, wrote in their letter to Mr. Barr.
The lawmakers say in some cases states used expired dosages of the drug, causing pain to the inmates as they were dying. They said the problem was some states were obtaining the drug from “poorly-operated” pharmacies.
The committee members have asked Mr. Barr and Mr. Hurwitz to turnover copies of the BOP’s execution protocols, and copy of a review ordered by former President Obama about reinstating the death penalty.
In addition, they are also seeking information on how much the pentobarbital the Justice Department has in stock, and when and where they acquired it.
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