A Justice Department spokeswoman said that the department's decisions on capital cases were intended to assure consistency in the application of the federal death penalty.
Lawyers said Ashcroft had insisted on seeking the execution of a defendant who had secured a promise of life in exchange for information.
Critics claim Mr. Ashcroft's decisions are a method of importing the death penalty to areas of the country where few or no executions have been carried out, like New York.
Ain't even compassionate. But everyone knows that was just to get votes.