US orders 3 executions before Biden

Joe Biden opposes the death penalty and will seek to repeal it, his spokesman said Saturday, as the Justice Department ordered three executions for the period before the Jan. 20 swearing-in.

The prison bureau carried out the eighth federal execution this year on Thursday, after a lapse of 17 years, and will likely increase pressure on Biden to decide whether his administration will continue to order executions. Human rights groups have called on the Donald Trump administration to halt all executions during this period.

Biden “opposes the death penalty now and in the future,” said press secretary TJ Ducklo. He did not clarify whether Biden would suspend executions immediately after taking office.

Federal executions resumed this year despite the coronavirus pandemic that has swept through prisons. The Justice Department has executed more people this year than in the previous half century despite more and more Democrats and Republicans speaking out against its application.

The department said in a court document on Friday that it ordered the execution of Alfred Bourgeois for Dec. 11 and Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs for Jan. 14 and 15. There were two more executions scheduled for this year, including the first of a woman in 60 years, but on Thursday a federal judge ruled that it should not take place this year.