June 29 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by four inmates, clearing the way for the first federal executions in about 17 years.
Attorney General William Barr in 2019 announced that the Trump administration would resume federal executions. The justices rejected hearing a ruling by the D.C. federal appeals court that reversed a lower court decision in the case brought by three inmates.
The inmates challenged the federal execution protocol on the basis that the incidents have to be done as required by the state law where the execution is happening. Barr proposed a single drug for lethal injection rather than the drug combination many states use. Government attorneys had argued the drugs used in the protocol are irrelevant, since the method of execution -- lethal injection -- is the same.
The order was not signed, but justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have heard the appeal.
The executions were temporarily blocked in December, but conservative justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh indicated they expected the Trump administration would win in appeals court.
The Bureau of Prisons, at Barr's direction, has scheduled four executions for July 13-17 at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind. All four were convicted more than 15 years ago of crimes including murder, torture and rape.
Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, was one of three inmates killed federally since 1988. He was executed in 2001.
Among the high-profile inmates awaiting execution include Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and Dylann Roof, convicted in the 2015 shooting deaths of nine people inside a Charleston, S.C. church.