A JUDGE has ordered a delay in the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee, who was set to be the first federal execution in 17 years on Monday afternoon.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan said there are still legal issues to resolve and that “the public is not served by short-circuiting legitimate judicial process.”
Lee, 47, was supposed to be executed at the US Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, at 4pm on Monday.
He was set to be the first execution carried out at the federal level since 2003; the executions have been pushed by the Trump administration,
After Chutkan's decision on Monday, the administration immediately appealed to a higher court, asking that the executions move forward.
Lee was convicted in Arkansas of the 1996 killings of gun dealer William Mueller, his wife, Nancy, and her eight-year-old daughter, Sarah Powell.
Relatives of those who have been killed by Lee say they are adamantly opposed to his execution — and have said they want to be present during it to counter any contention that it was being done on their behalf.
“For us, it is a matter of being there and saying, `'his is not being done in our name; we do not want this,’” Monica Veillette, a relative, said.
The relatives would be traveling thousands of miles and witnessing the execution in a small room where the social distancing recommended to prevent coronavirus’ spread is virtually impossible.
The federal prison system has struggled in recent months to contain the exploding number of COVID cases behind bars — and there are currently four confirmed infections among inmates at the Terre Haute prison, and one inmate there has died.
“The federal government has put this family in the untenable position of choosing between their right to witness Danny Lee’s execution and their own health and safety,” Baker Kurrus, the family's attorney, said on Sunday.
Attorney General William Barr told The Associated Press last week that it's his duty to carry out sentences imposed by the court system — including the death penalty.
He said the sentences bring a sense of closure to the victims and those in the communities where the killings happened.
Barr said he believes the Bureau of Prisons could “carry out these executions without being at risk" from coronavirus.
The agency has put a number of additional measures in place, including temperature checks and requiring execution witnesses to wear masks.
More to follow…
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