A jury may have sentenced Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death this afternoon, but he won’t be executed anytime soon due to a moratorium on federal executions.
The moratorium has been in place since 2011 due to a review of the protocol used by the Bureau of Prisons, including a shortage of the drug sodium thiopental used in lethal injections, which has also disrupted executions in many states. The Obama administration was set in 2010 to execute Jeffrey Paul, convicted in 1997 of killing retied Park Service employee Sherman Williams, but the moratorium interrupted those plans.
Asked whether the moratorium is still in effect and whether that means Tsarnaev will not be executed until the moratorium is lifted, Justice Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush told Business Insider:
“The Justice Department is continuing its review of the federal protocol used by the Bureau of Prisons as well as policy issues related to the death penalty, and we have, in effect, a moratorium in place on federal executions in the meantime.”
In February, Politico reported that the “administration told a judge the review was in its final stages but officials later backed away from that.”
In addition, any execution is likely to be delayed due to a lengthy appeals process in such cases. Of the 80 federal death sentences handed down since 1988, only three, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, have actually been executed.
Currently, 60 people are on federal death row, and 3,000 are on death row in state prisons across the US.