WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday it was reinstating a two-decades long dormant policy to resume the federal government’s use of capital punishment and immediately scheduled the executions for five death row federal inmates, including a drug kingpin from Iowa who killed five people.
“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”
President Donald Trump has called for increasing use of the death penalty for drug traffickers and mass shooters.
The Justice Department said it has scheduled executions for five federal inmates convicted of horrific murders and sex crimes.
One of the five is Dustin Lee Honken, an Iowa drug kingpin convicted in 2004 for the 1993 murders of three witnesses and two children. Honken and his then-girlfriend Angela Johnson were convicted in the slayings, an attempt to prevent a federal investigation into his sophisticated, multistate drug business. The victims were two former dealers for Honken who became informants, one of their girlfriends and her two children, ages 6 and 10, who were home when Honken and Johnson came to find the adults.
Honken is on death row at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., and his execution is scheduled for Jan. 15, 2020. Iowa does not practice capital punishment, but Honken was eligible for death because he was convicted in federal court.
Johnson also was sentenced to death, but the sentence was tossed out by a judge in 2014. She is serving a life sentence without parole at a federal prison in Waseca, Minn.
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Another inmate scheduled for execution is Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist who was convicted in Arkansas for murdering a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl.
Another one of the five is Lezmond Mitchell, who was found guilty by a jury in Arizona of stabbing a 63-year-old grandmother and forcing her young granddaughter to sit next to her lifeless body on a car journey before slitting the girl’s throat.
“Each of these inmates has exhausted their appellate and post-conviction remedies,” the department said, adding that all five executions will take place at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute in Indiana.
The Gazette contributed to this article.