For nearly a hundred years, Mitchell Palmer was considered one of the worst U.S. Attorney Generals in American history. He was appointed and confirmed as A.G. in March 1919. The author of the nation’s first Red Scare, Palmer’s nearly two-year stint as Attorney General was marred by the Palmer Raids, wholesale violations of individual rights and liberties, prosecuting the innocent and protecting the guilty, advancing and fomenting wild-eyed conspiracy theories of the President who appointed him (Woodrow Wilson), and waging an illegal war against the nation’s immigrants.
Then came William “Bill” Barr, who became U.S. Attorney General in February 2019—almost one hundred years to the day after Palmer became attorney general. Barr’s nearly two-year stint as attorney general, like Mitchell Palmer’s time in office, has involved wholesale violations of individual rights and liberties, prosecuting the innocent and protecting the guilty, advancing and fomenting wild-eyed conspiracy theories of the President who appointed him (Donald J. Trump), waging an illegal war against the nation’s immigrants, and advancing the most corrupt presidential agenda in American history (here, here, and here).
These actions, standing alone, under the glare of historical scrutiny would be sufficient to have Barr replace Palmer as the worst and most corrupt attorney general in U.S. history.
But it will not be political corruption and an unethical trampling of the rule of law that will give Attorney General Barr a special place in the list of “Who’s Who of Worsts” of American history.
Voracious Purveyor of Government Sanctioned Death
Instead, it will be Barr’s monstrous and insidious handling of the federal death penalty that will cause him to be vilified by the authors of history.
Between 1929 and 1963, 31 federal executions were carried out in various state and federal death chambers in the United States. There were an additional six executions of German saboteurs carried out in Washington, D.C. on August 8, 1942 per orders of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. These Germans were arrested and summarily convicted on July 28, 1942 for crimes of espionage and attempted sabotage.
Between 1963 and 2001 there was a quasi-official moratorium on the federal death penalty. That moratorium ended on June 11, 2001 when Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted for the worst act of domestic terrorism in the U.S. in what became known as the “Oklahoma City bombing.” After he waived his appeals, McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection in the death chamber located in the Terre Haute, Indiana federal penitentiary. Eight days later (June 19) Juan Raul Garza, the head of a major Texas marijuana drug smuggling and distribution ring, was put to death for three murders carried out as part of his drug operation. Nearly two years later (March 18, 2003), former U.S. Army airborne ranger Louis Jones, Jr. was executed for the murder a female military private stationed at a military base in San Angelo, Texas.
For the next sixteen years, a second de facto moratorium on the federal death penalty took effect. That moratorium remained in place until July 25, 2019, when Attorney General Barr issued a directive to the “Federal Bureau of Prisons to Adopt an Addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol and Schedule the Executions of Five Death-Row Inmates Convicted of Murdering Children.”
Those executions were put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2019, shortly before the first execution was carried out. Seven months later, the court paved the way for federal executions to resume.
Barr did not waste any time. He had Daniel Lewis Lee’s execution set for July 14. The Supreme Court denied a last-minute effort to halt Lee’s execution, and he became the first federal inmate in 17 years to be executed. Barr pushed ahead with Lee’s execution even though the actual killer in the case escaped the death penalty and the victim’s mother pleaded with Barr not to carry out the execution. Barr also ignored Lee’s attorneys’ pleas to have DNA testing of crucial evidence they said would have established their client’s innocence. Instead, following the man’s execution, the attorney general said the probably innocent Lee “finally faced the justice he deserved.”
AG Barr Oversees Most Executions in U.S. History
Attorney General Barr was not done with his crusade of death.
Over the next three days, Barr put to death two more federal inmates—and between July 14 and November 19, 2020, the attorney general put to death a total of eight inmates. That’s the most people ever put to death in one year by the federal government. The previous high was the five people put to death in 1938. And Attorney General Barr plans to execute five more before January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day—two of those executions set to be carried out before the New Year, with one being the youngest person to be executed by the federal government in nearly 70 years.
The AG plans to open the New Year with the January 12 execution of Lisa Montgomery, the first woman to be executed by the federal government in 67 years.
Unprecedented Record of Homicide by A.G.
If all goes as “Hang’em High” Barr plans, he will have carried out 13 executions in the final six months of his corrupt tenure—one of a probably innocent man, the other of a man who committed his crime as a teenager, and a woman. That is an unprecedented record for any U.S. Attorney General since the office was first created through the Judiciary Act of 1789.
One question must be asked—why would Attorney General Barr find a compelling need to execute three people in January 2021 during his last 20 days in office?
Only someone with a mind as corrupt as William “Bill” Barr could offer a logical answer to that question. He will have to opportunity to answer that question when the Devil greets him in hell.