Determining whether inmate mentally fit for execution could cause delay

Cheryl Sanders
July 15, 2020

Mr. Lee's execution, originally scheduled for 4 pm yesterday, was blocked by a federal court ruling that he must be allowed to challenge the new lethal injection protocol that the federal government planned to use for the first time to execute Mr. Lee. "I bear no responsibility for the deaths of the Mueller family".

Lee was pronounced dead by the coroner at 8:07 a.m. ET in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Wesley Ira Purkey, 68, is to be put to death on Wednesday for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl while Dustin Lee Honken, 52, is to be executed on Friday for five murders including those of two girls aged 10 and six.

Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was executed by lethal injection at a federal prison in the state of in, making it the first execution undertaken by the US Bureau of Prisons since 2003.

Most crimes are tried under state laws, but federal courts handle some of the most serious offenses, including terror attacks, hate crimes and racketeering cases.

An appeals court had upheld that order before the Supreme Court vacated it.

In a 5-4 decision, the court's conservatives ruled that the execution could "proceed as planned".

Prosecutors said Lee and Kehoe incapacitated the Muellers and questioned Sarah about where they could find money and ammunition.

The top USA law enforcement official said Lee "finally faced the justice he deserved". In fact, the alleged victims' family members had expressed that they hoped there would never be an execution.

Fourteen states have used the single-drug process in more than 200 executions since 2010, but adoption by the Federal Bureau of Prisons has led to legal challenges.

Prosecutors said Lee and another man robbed the family to steal guns that they meant to sell to finance the founding of a white supremacist "Aryan Peoples Republic".

They also noted Lee's co-defendant and the reputed ringleader, Chevie Kehoe, received a life sentence.

Prosecutors at the pair's trial in 1999 said that Lee and Kehoe tortured the family of three before stealing guns and $50,000 in cash as part of a plan to set up a whites-only nation.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, after he robbed and shot the victims with a stun gun, Lewis covered their heads with plastic bags, sealed them with duct tape and weighed each of the victims down with rocks before throwing them into the Illinois Bayou.

There have been two state executions in the US since the pandemic forced shutdowns nationwide in mid-March - one in Texas and one in Missouri, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Last week, three mental health organizations urged U.S. Attorney William Barr to stop Purkey's execution and commute his sentence to life in prison without possibility of parole.

The Supreme Court majority rejected that argument, saying the drug has been adopted by individual states that carry out their own executions and that more than 100 people have been put to death that way "without incident".

Among the most notable recent federal executions was that of Timothy McVeigh, who was put to death by lethal injection in 2001 for the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma that killed 168 people.

A judge issued a stay, which delays his death.

In 2014, following a botched state execution in Oklahoma the Justice Department was directed to conduct a broad review of capital punishment and issues surrounding lethal injection drugs, by then-President Barack Obama. This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas.

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, stating that "the resumption of federal executions promises to provide examples that illustrate the difficulties of administering the death penalty consistent with the Constitution". In 2019, 22 people were put to death.

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