PHOENIX (FOX 10) - The death penalty is back on the table as punishment for federal crimes.
In a somewhat surprising announcement today, U.S. Attorney General William Barr directed the Bureau of Prisons to begin scheduling the execution of five inmates. One of those inmates is Lezmond Mitchell, who killed a 63-year-old woman and her 9-year-old granddaughter on the Navajo Nation back in 2001.
Barr says the government owes it to the victims and their families to carry out the punishment handed down by the justice system.
While the death penalty is legal in 30 states, including Arizona, the state has been unable to execute anyone since a botched execution in 2014.
The latest move from Barr is reigniting the debate over whether states should be in the business of putting people to death.
This decision has people wondering if states that have put executions on hold will now follow through with them.
The announcement was met by praise by at least one Arizona congressman, Andy Biggs. Biggs applauded the move in a statement saying in part, "Government has a solemn responsibility to administer justice for the most loathsome crimes, committed by some of our most hardened criminals."
There hasn't been a federal execution since 2003 after problems with the three-drug cocktail that was being used. A botched execution in 2014 led to a Department of Justice review, and now five people are set to be federally executed with a one drug cocktail starting later this year.
"You know, the federal government hasn't been doing this for awhile. Exactly what are their protocols? What happened to their practice and procedures and policies? Have they been renewed? Have they been revamped?" Ray Krone said.
FOX 10 reached Ray Krone by phone. Krone spent 10 years in prison and time on death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence for an early 1990s murder he didn't commit.
He says the announcement today has him concerned.
"It's new what just happened. I can pretty much promise you there will be a number of suits filed by whether its by Amnesty International, the ACLU, or other groups. Again, what is the federal government prepared to do? What have they done in preparing to resume execution? Krone said.
The decision only effects federal crimes, not state. Here in Arizona, there hasn't been an execution in five years, and there are 116 people currently sitting on the state's death row with no executions scheduled.