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Justice Department halts federal executions, after they resumed under Trump

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday night that the Justice Department is halting federal executions and he has ordered a thorough review of protocols put into place during the Trump administration.

"The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely," Garland said. "That obligation has special force in capital cases."

After a 17-year pause, the Justice Department began resuming federal executions last July, carrying out 13 executions over the course of six months — and making former President Donald Trump the first president in more than 120 years to oversee so many federal executions, The Associated Press reports. 

The executioners described the inmates dying by lethal injection in tranquil terms, referring to their final breaths as "snores," AP says, but witnesses described watching their bodies shake and shudder. The Bureau of Prisons will not share how it was able to secure pentobarbital to use in the executions; over the last several years, pharmaceutical companies have been refusing to let their products be used for capital punishment.