The Trump administration has carried out the first execution during a presidential lame-duck period in 130 years, putting to death Brandon Bernard.
Bernard, 40, was executed on Friday (Australian time) for his role in the slayings of a religious couple from Iowa more than two decades ago.
Traditionally executions are not carried out in a “lame-duck” period – when an outgoing president is considered to have less political influence because their successor has already been elected.
Bernard was one of five teenagers accused of abducting and robbing Todd and Stacie Bagley on their way from a Sunday service in Killeen, Texas in 1999.
The couple were shot in the back of a car by Christopher Vialva before Bernard set the car alight.
It is rare for a person who committed a crime while in their teens to be sentenced to death in the US – Bernard was 18 at the time of the offence.
He received a lethal injection of phenobarbital at a US prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, and is the ninth person to be executed during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Several high-profile figures, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, had appealed to Mr Trump to commute Bernard’s sentence to life in prison.
Kardashian West told her Twitter followers in numerous tweets that she believed Bernard had been rehabilitated while serving his sentence and should not have been put to death.
According to the BBC, the federal prosecutor who defended Bernard’s death sentence had also called for the convicted man to serve his sentence in prison.
Mr Trump was also urged to commute Bernard’s death sentence by five of the nine surviving jurors, who unanimously voted him guilty 20 years ago.
Despite that, Bernard was officially pronounced dead at 9.27pm on Thursday (1.27pm Friday AEDT).
He directed his last words to the family of the couple he killed.
“I’m sorry,” he said, lifting his head and looking at the witness-room windows.
“That’s the only words that I can say that completely capture how I feel now and how I felt that day.”
Mr Trump resumed federal executions in July after a 17-year hiatus and despite the coronavirus outbreak in US prisons.
Four more are planned in the weeks before President-elect Joe Biden’s January inauguration.
If they all go ahead, Mr Trump will have overseen the most executions by any US president in more than 100 years, bringing the total number of federal executions since July to 13.