BREAKING: Indiana State Police Backs Down, Agrees Not To Block Execution Protesters

Death Penalty Action Calls For Congressional Investigation Into Recent Executions, Trump Administration’s Politicization of Death Penalty

Death Penalty Action Press Release


For More Information Contact: Austin Kieler,

TERRE HAUTE, IN — The Indiana State Police has decided not to challenge a lawsuit charging that it was violating the First Amendment rights of death penalty opponants. The ISP blocked public roads surrounding the Federal Penitentiary at Terre Haute, Indiana in advance of three federal executions last month, and will now stop doing so.

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Looking west from the intersection of US 41 & Springhill Rd. The prison is 1.8 miles west of this point. More images and videos are here:

In a lawsuit filed on August 4, 2020 by the ACLU of Indiana on behalf of Death Penalty Action, the Indiana Abolition Coalition, Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods, Indianapolis attorney Ashley Kincaid Eve and other individuals opposed to the death penalty, plaintiffs sought an injunction preventing road closures during future executions so that they can protest within view of the prison. With an agreement signed by the attorneys of both parties, the lawsuit will now be dismissed.

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This is the space protesters wish to use, as seen the morning of July 16. The prison is across SR63/Prarieton Rd, just behind the reporter. With the roadblocks taken down as the execution was delayed overnight, we had no problem arriving here at approximately 6:15am, and staying through the execution, which was completed shortly after 8am. More images and videos are here:

“For the Indiana State Police to back down immediately shows the government has no problem violating civil and human rights when they think they can get away with it,” said Abraham Bonowitz, Director of Death Penalty Action. “This is a victory for the First Amendment, but it is troubling that it took a lawsuit to allow us to shine a spotlight on the outrageous behavior going on behind the razor wire. These executions are being scripted by President Trump’s re-election campaign to create a talking point heading into the Republican National Convention.”

Death Penalty Action has been alleging the political nature of the resumption of federal executions since execution dates were announced more than a year ago, in July, 2019. As two new execution dates were recently announced, Death Penalty Action launched a national sign-on letter and a petition calling on Congress to investigate irregularities in how the July executions were carried out, and to stop future presidents from using executions for political purposes by ending the federal death penalty entirely. Additional information is here.

“President Trump is not trying to advance justice or help victims,” said Bonowitz. “In fact, the Trump’s adminstration is completely ignoring murder victims’ families, who do not want their loved ones’ memories sullied by an execution. These prisoners and the families of the victims mean nothing to him. He just wants to be able to say he has executed more people than any president in well over half a century.”

The first federal execution in 17 years was carried out on July 14, despite the strong objections of the family of the victims in the case. Earlier last week, the Trump Administration set August 26, 2020 as the date to execute Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American on the federal death row over the objections of the victim’s family and the Navajo Nation.

If all currently scheduled executions are carried out, the Trump Administration will have executed a total of 7 prisoners this election year. The Trump campaign blasted out an email on July 14, celebrating how tough the president is and challenging Joe Biden on the issue of capital punishment.

“The upcoming executions at the end of August are timed for right before the Republican National Convention, and there is no question that Donald Trump is using the power of the presidency to execute prisoners to establish a ‘Law and Order’ credential for himself,” said Bonowitz. “That is wrong, and that is why we are calling on Congress to investigate these executions, including the role of the Trump campaign, and the legal shenanigans we saw with the first two executions in July.

“We continue to call on Congress to end the federal death penalty and make it impossible for politicians to ever again use capital punishment as a political weapon.”

Death Penalty Action works to end capital punishment at the state and federal level. It is a leading organization among those convening protests at the site of federal executions in Terre Haute, IN. There will also be a protest at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC at 4pm on August 28th in conjunction with a national March on Washington scheduled for that day.


Death Penalty Action | P.O. Box 89, Ghent NY, 12075 USA | Reach Abraham Bonowitz directly at 561–371–5204.

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Death Penalty Action provides high visibility resources, leadership and support in order to stop executions.

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