Judge Tanya Chutkan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the immediate halt of the scheduled executions of four federal death row inmates Wednesday night, essentially freezing the Trump administration’s attempts to re-instate federal executions, a practice that has not been carried out in almost two decades.
Underlying statutes and protocols limited the ability to carry out executions at the federal level. Therefore, to bring back these executions the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) needed to develop a new execution protocol: the “2019 Protocol.”
In response to this new protocol, four of the five death row inmates filed complaints against the Department of Justice and BOP alleging that the 2019 Protocol is unlawful and unconstitutional on numerous grounds.
The executions were halted in order to give the claims time to be fully litigated. Specifically, the court ordered a preliminary injunction after reviewing the parties’ filings, the record and the relevant case law. Per the memorandum, Chutkan admitted “a preliminary injunction is an ‘extraordinary remedy’ that is ‘never awarded as of right.’ … Courts consider four factors on a motion for a preliminary injunction: (1) the likelihood of plaintiff’s success on the merits, (2) the threat of irreparable harm to the plaintiff absent an injunction, (3) the balance of equities, and (4) the public interest.”