Democrats are expected to strongly protest a decision released Thursday by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to resume the execution of death row inmates after a nearly two decade-long hiatus.

Five inmates convicted of murder and other crimes are scheduled for execution by lethal injection in December 2019 and January 2020. Attorney General William Barr has directed the Bureau of Prisons to carry out the executions of these men at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Additional executions will be scheduled at a later date. Legal experts, however, say legal challenges will likely delay these executions.

The last federal execution was carried out in 2003. There are 62 individuals on federal death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The United States is the only first-world country that still inflicts capital punishment or the death penalty on convicted criminals.

A number of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for president in 2020 have come out against the death penalty. Their arguments echo that of the party’s official platform in 2016.

In the 2016 presidential election, Democrats made abolishing the death penalty a part of its official platform. Democrats said they will "abolish the death penalty, which has proven to be a cruel and unusual form of punishment. It has no place in the United States of America."

Democrats argued the application of the death penalty "arbitrary and unjust."

"It does not deter crime," said the Democrat's platform. "And, exonerations show a dangerous lack of reliability for what is an irreversible punishment."

Democrats say they were inspired to abolish capital punishment by the movements for criminal justice that directly address the discriminatory treatment of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians.

In ordering a resumption of the executions, Barr argued justice demands it under the rule of law.

“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,” said Barr.

He pointed out Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President.

“Under Administrations of both parties, the Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.”

Department of Justice
The Department of Justice Reuters

The Supreme Court outlawed state and federal death penalty laws in the 1972 decision, Furman v. Georgia, reducing all death sentences pending at the time to life imprisonment. The ruling invalidated the laws on capital punishment on the books.

It did not, however, outlaw the death penalty under all circumstances. The federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988 and broadened in scope by Congress in 1994.

Scheduled for execution are Daniel Lewis Lee, Lezmond Mitchell, Wesley Ira Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois and Dustin Lee Honken. The men are accused of murdering or raping 10 persons.

DOJ provided brief summaries of the crimes committed by each death row inmate.