US executes first federal prisoner in 17 years

US murderer Daniel Lewis Lee has been put to death, hours after the Supreme Court allowed the first executions of federal inmates in 17 years.

Several executions were initially delayed when a judge ruled on Monday that there were still unresolved legal challenges.

The condemned prisoners had argued that lethal injections constitute “cruel and unusual punishments”.

But the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that “executions may proceed as planned”.

Last year, the Trump administration said it would resume federal executions.

Some of the relatives of Lee’s victims opposed his execution in Indiana and had sought to have it delayed, arguing that attending it could expose them to coronavirus.

Earlene Peterson, 81, whose daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law were killed by Lee, said she wanted the 47-year-old to be given life in jail, the same sentence as his accomplice.

The Trump administration’s move has been criticised as a political decision, with campaigners expressing concern about cases being rushed.

Daniel Lewis Lee was convicted of torturing and killing a family in Arkansas in 1996, dumping their bodies in a lake.

Postponed from December, his execution had been rescheduled for 16:00 (20:00 GMT) on 13 July but was blocked by a ruling from District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

“The court… finds that the likely harm that plaintiffs would suffer if the court does not grant injunctive relief far outweighs any potential harm to defendants,” the judge had said.

Her ruling was consequently overruled by the Supreme Court, which said: “The plaintiffs in this case have not made the showing required to justify last-minute intervention by a Federal Court.”

The previous inmate executed by federal death penalty was Louis Jones Jr, a 53-year-old Gulf War veteran who murdered 19-year-old soldier Tracie Joy McBride.

Three more federal executions are scheduled in the near future. All three prisoners are, like Lee, child killers:

  • Wesley Ira Purkey, who was sentenced in Missouri in 2003 for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl whose body he dismembered, burnt and dumped in a septic pond, is due to be executed on Wednesday
  • Dustin Lee Honken, sentenced in Iowa in 2004 for shooting dead five people including two girls aged six and 10, is due to be executed on Friday
  • Keith Dwayne Nelson, sentenced in Missouri in 2001 for the rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl behind a church, is set to be executed next month

Source: BBC

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