WASHINGTON — The coronavirus pandemic is sweeping via loss of life row on the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., with a minimum of 14 of the roughly 50 males there having examined constructive, attorneys for the prisoners and others acquainted with their instances mentioned.

The outbreak comes because the Trump administration is searching for to proceed the wave of federal executions it has performed, with three extra scheduled earlier than President Trump leaves workplace on Jan. 20. Two of the three folks scheduled to be put to loss of life subsequent month — Corey Johnson and Dustin John Higgs — have examined constructive for the virus.

Already their attorneys are saying their execution dates ought to be withdrawn. And on this case postponement previous Jan. 20 may very well be the distinction between life and loss of life as President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has mentioned he would work to finish federal capital punishment.

The Justice Division and the Bureau of Prisons didn’t reply to questions on what protocols they’d use to find out whether or not to delay execution of a prisoner who was sick with a extremely contagious illness.

However there may be proof that executions can turn out to be spreading occasions.

After the November execution of Orlando Corridor, a Bureau of Prisons official revealed in a courtroom submitting that eight members of the execution group had examined constructive for the coronavirus, 5 of whom deliberate to journey to Terre Haute for the December executions. In a separate courtroom submitting, Mr. Corridor’s non secular adviser mentioned he additionally examined constructive after attending the execution.

There’s additionally a precedent of kinds for citing the virus as trigger for postponement. The third particular person scheduled to be executed earlier than Mr. Trump leaves workplace is Lisa Montgomery, the one lady on federal loss of life row. She isn’t held at Terre Haute, and has not examined constructive for the virus.

However after the federal government introduced its intention to execute Ms. Montgomery — convicted of murdering a pregnant lady and abducting her unborn little one — two of her attorneys traveled to go to her at a federal jail in Texas. They later examined constructive for the coronavirus.

A courtroom order then briefly enjoined the federal government from executing Ms. Montgomery, who was scheduled to die this month, and the Justice Division delayed her execution till January.

Shawn Nolan, a lawyer for Mr. Higgs and chief of the Capital Habeas Unit at a Pennsylvania-based federal group defender workplace, contended that the Justice Division and the Bureau of Prisons “recklessly disregarded” the protection of employees members, prisoners and attorneys. He additionally mentioned “the phrase on the row is that 29” prisoners have examined constructive.

“Now we have been saying for fairly some time that these super-spreader executions shouldn’t be continuing through the pandemic,” Mr. Nolan mentioned in a press release, urging the federal government to halt the upcoming executions. “Now it couldn’t be extra clear that the choice to maneuver ahead with these executions has had a horrible affect on the numbers of inmates and guards testing constructive at Terre Haute.”

In a press release, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Prisons, Kristie Breshears, confirmed that an unspecified variety of inmates within the particular confinement unit had examined constructive for the coronavirus and added that those that have been constructive or symptomatic have been positioned in isolation. The bureau discovered that an worker assigned to the particular confinement unit examined constructive, however this worker had no contact with employees members concerned within the latest executions, she mentioned.

“Whereas numerous inmates have examined constructive for Covid-19 at USP Terre Haute in latest weeks, many of those inmates are asymptomatic or exhibiting delicate signs,” she mentioned. “Our highest precedence stays making certain the protection of employees and inmates.”

It stays unclear what the Bureau of Prisons might do if one of many inmates is infectious on the time of his scheduled execution. Robert Dunham, govt director of the Loss of life Penalty Data Heart, mentioned {that a} 2019 addendum to the execution protocol didn’t stipulate what to do if a prisoner is sick.

Of the 1,239 whole inmates on the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute reported by the Bureau of Prisons, the company has disclosed 252 active coronavirus cases. The inhabitants of loss of life row prisoners there, all male, contains fewer than 50 men — a quantity that shrank considerably after the Trump administration’s newest string of executions.

Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Venture, likened the prisoners to “sitting geese,” unable to guard themselves from jail employees members who might unfold the virus.

“It’s the Bureau of Prisons’ job to maintain them protected and wholesome,” she mentioned. ”They’re far more occupied with speeding via executions than ensuring Covid doesn’t unfold.”

The Justice Division is already going through a lawsuit from inmates on the jail complicated in Terre Haute who worry the executions would possibly expose them to undue threat of contracting the virus. The division has mentioned that an elevated threat of contracting Covid-19 “isn’t pretty traceable” to the executions, arguing that the Bureau of Prisons partitions the execution group off from inmates and the employees on the complicated as a lot as potential.

Executions are performed in a separate constructing on the Terre Haute campus from the place the inmates stay. However all instructed, the method attracts tens if not lots of of individuals to the federal jail complicated and the realm round it, together with protesters, witnesses, attorneys, media personnel and Bureau of Prisons staff.

Amongst these for whom the coronavirus could also be particularly medically worrisome is Gary Lee Sampson, who the Department of Justice mentioned killed three harmless folks in a seven-day interval in July 2001. His lawyer, Madeline Cohen, mentioned that her consumer had late-stage cirrhosis — which the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has said might improve threat for a extreme case of Covid-19 — in addition to different well being considerations. She discovered on Wednesday that he had examined constructive for the virus.

Her different consumer on the loss of life row has additionally examined constructive: Norris Holder, convicted of the homicide of a financial institution safety guard throughout a theft in 1997. Mr. Holder, who suffers from epilepsy, has been unable to get entry to computer systems to refill his remedy, she mentioned. His confederate within the crime, Billie Jerome Allen, additionally examined constructive, in response to Mr. Nolan, whose workplace represents a few of these on federal loss of life row.

The fast unfold is unsurprising due to poor air flow within the particular confinement unit, mentioned Monica Foster, one of many attorneys for the condemned males.

“I’m stunned it didn’t occur prior to now, frankly,” mentioned Ms. Foster, who’s the manager director of the Indiana Federal Group Defenders.