July 25 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the government Thursday to resume capital punishment, 16 years after the last federal execution.
Barr said he asked Hugh Hurwitz, the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons, to schedule executions for five death row inmates starting in December.
"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," Barr said. "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."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said resuming executions was "wrong," adding that she changed her stance on the death penalty several years ago.
"Since 1973 there have been more than 160 death row exonerations," she said. "That's more than 160 people who were sentenced to die but were later cleared. How many other innocent people weren't so lucky? You can't fix an improperly implemented death penalty."
The last federal execution was that of Gulf War veteran Louis Jones Jr. in March 2003 for the rape and murder of a fellow soldier, Pvt. Tracie McBride in 1995.
Jones admitted kidnapping the young female recruit at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, but his lawyer sought clemency by arguing Jones suffered behavior-altering brain damage from exposure to nerve gas during the Gulf War that gave him uncontrollable, violent urges.
Jones' was the third federal execution in 40 years. In 2014, former President Barack Obama ordered then-Attorney General Eric holder to review the use of the death penalty in the United States, effectively implementing a moratorium on executions.
Hurwitz has scheduled the executions -- for Daniel Lewis Lee on Dec. 9, Lezmond Mitchell on Dec. 11, Wesley Ira Purkey on Dec. 13, Alfred Bourgeois on Jan. 13 and Dustin Lee Honken on Jan. 15.