A United States judge on Monday ordered a delay in federal executions, hours before one was to be carried out for the first time in 17 years, hampering the Donald Trump administration’s plan to revive capital punishment by the federal government.
Washington District Judge, Tanya Chutkan, issued a preliminary injunction to allow the continuation of legal challenges of four death row inmates against the government’s new lethal injection protocol announced last year.
“The public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process,” she wrote in an order.
The Department of Justice immediately appealed the ruling.
The department planned to carry out the first executions at a federal level since 2003 over the next few weeks, starting with Daniel Lewis Lee, who was convicted of murder, in the U.S state of Indiana on Monday.
The move has been mired in legal battles. Chutkan’s order came just hours after a federal appeals court had overturned a lower court’s ruling halting Monday’s execution over COVID-19 concerns.
The US Attorney- General, William Barr, announced last summer he was bringing back the death penalty, of which President Trump has been a long-time vocal advocate.
The US states individually decide whether to use capital punishment in their criminal justice systems.
The federal system is separate from those of the 50 states and other jurisdictions.
Some 20 states have banned the death penalty, while others have not carried out executions in decades.