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Executions Of Inmates Scheduled For First Time in 16 Years

The US is reinstating the use of capital punishment and has immediately scheduled the executions for five death row federal inmates.

The policy, announced by the Justice Department, has been dormant for almost two decades, with the last execution carried out in 2003.

"Congress has expressly authorised 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 on Thursday.

"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."

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William Barr
William Barr released a statement on Thursday. Photo: Getty Images.

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 who have been convicted of horrific murders and sex crimes.

Those inmates include 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 US Penitentiary Terre Haute in Indiana.

Five executions have been scheduled. Photo: Getty Images.

The first execution is scheduled for December 9 and the remaining four over the following weeks.

"Additional executions will be scheduled at a later date," a statement from the Department of Justice said.

The federal decision will affect only cases within that system, as US states separately decide whether to use capital punishment in their criminal justice systems.

Twenty states have banned the death penalty while others have not carried out executions in decades.

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The last time the federal government executed someone was in 2003, one of less than a handful of such cases since the death penalty was reinstated at the federal level in 1988.

While there has not been a federal execution in more than 15 years, federal attorneys have continued to carry out death penalty prosecutions.