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Dear friends:

Last Thursday, Orlando Hall was put to death by the Department of Justice. In the second week of December, two others will meet the same fate, followed by another three in January, all at the hands of an Administration apparently eager to mete out as much death as possible in the final throes of its tenure.

These executions are not an act of justice, they are a political act, a flexing of ultimate power.

Trump's Administration is running counter to public opinion and the vast majority of states that no longer practice the death penalty. In this, the Administration is abetted by a Supreme Court whose majority has done everything it could to shore up a completely untenable punishment, a system riddled with racism, class bias, prosecutorial misconduct, and outright errors.

I have been up nights, thinking about Lisa Montgomery and Brandon Bernard and the others who will die by lethal injection days before Trump leaves office.

Lisa! I think of her and the unspeakable abuse she suffered every day of her life; Lisa, who pleaded for help and was denied; Lisa, who committed a terrible crime in a psychotic state; Lisa, a woman who needed the aid of a mental health system in a country which has all but replaced mental health care with a system of mass incarceration. A killing needle is not what Lisa should have. It is not what any of them should have.

So, I stay up at nights working with the lawyers and our social media team and reaching out to anyone who might help forestall the hand of Trump and his Attorney General. There's a slim chance we will succeed, but we persist.

And yet, I have great hope for the new year. Come January 20, there will be a new day with a new president committed in his opposition to capital punishment. President-Elect Biden said this past weekend that he "opposes the death penalty, now and in the future, and as president will work to end its use."

We have experienced how huge an impact presidential leadership can have in moving the public - for good or for ill. I believe Joe Biden's leadership on the death penalty will mark a new era.

From the heart,

Brandon Barnard is scheduled to die on December 10. I have Zoom visited with him, assisting his attorneys with a clemency petition. I am so impressed with his beautiful spirit. Brandon received terrible defense at trial, and a majority of the surviving jurors from that trial no longer support his death sentence. Find out more, including ways you can help, at Help Save Brandon.

Background on the Federal executions

  • In July 2020, the federal government began executing death row prisoners after a 17-year hiatus. Since then, eight federal death row prisoners have been executed, with five more executions scheduled during Trump's tenure. No presidential administration in modern history has carried out this many executions.
  • The federal government’s execution spree has placed thousands of people at risk of COVID-19 infection. Litigation revealed that one of the primary officials involved in planning the executions attended meetings without wearing a mask. COVID infections are increasing at the federal prison facility where executions are carried out in Terre Haute, Indiana. Victims’ families, family members of the condemned, reporters, prison officials, and other personnel must converge on the prison and spend hours together in very tight spaces. This month, Lisa Montgomery's attorneys both succumbed to the virus after visiting their client on death row.
  • There are serious questions about the legality of two executions carried out in July. Daniel Lee and Wesley Purkey were executed many hours after their execution warrants had expired. The federal Department of Justice claims that they can instantly reset an execution when a legal impediment has been removed, but this is an untested legal proposition that no court has ever considered.
  • The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast granted an award for “exemplary Christlike behavior” to Attorney General Barr, the architect of the current execution spree, on the day in between two executions. Many Catholic leaders, including Sister Helen, decried this award and urged the NCPB to rescind the invitation.


December 2020
4 South Carolina Richard Moore
10 Federal Brandon Bernard
11 Federal Alfred Bourgeois
January 2021
12 Federal Lisa Montgomery
14 Federal Corey Johnson
15 Federal Dustin Higgs
21 Texas Blaine Milam


We’d love to hear from you.

Let us know what you’d like to see in future editions of Death Penalty Discourse, what tools and resources you’re using in your community, and how Dead Man Walking has impacted your life. Contact us by email and like us on Facebook for updates and current news.


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