The state execution of drug smugglers that President Donald Trump has pushed for as part of his plan to combat the opioid crisis is already legal under a 1994 law passed at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic.
But in 24 years, federal prosecutors have never once used it. They hardly need to, considering the draconian penalties already available for punishing convicted drug smugglers.
Signed by President Bill Clinton, the 1994 death penalty statute was part of a clampdown on drug dealers in response to the crack epidemic, linked to a surge of crime and violence in American cities in the 1980s and 1990s. But it was a bridge too far even for zealous prosecutors because many believed it would be found to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, said Ojmarrh Mitchell, a professor of statistics and criminology at the University of South Florida.