US District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington on Wednesday issued two injunctions prohibiting the Federal Prison Office from continuing the execution of Purkey.
The Department of Justice filed immediate appeals in both cases. A separate temporary suspension was already in place compared to the United States’ Seventh Court of Appeal.
Morning legal disputes suggest that a spate of litigation will continue in the hours leading up to the scheduled execution of Purkey, similar to what happened this week when the federal government executed Lee, following a decision by the United States Supreme Court.
Lee, who was convicted of the murder of an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build an all-white nation, was the first of four men sentenced to death in July and August.
Purkey, 68, of Lansing, Kansas, would be the second, but his lawyers still had to press for a Supreme Court decision on his jurisdiction.
“This jurisdictional problem is a very important problem on paper,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
“The Supreme Court has suspended executions on this issue in the past. At a minimum, the question of whether Purkey dies will arise at the last minute. ”
Chutkan did not rule on Purkey’s jurisdiction, but said the court should assess the claim. She said that while the government may disagree with Purkey’s lawyers about his jurisdiction, there is no doubt that he would suffer “irreparable harm” if he was put to death before his requests could be assessed by the court.
Lee’s own execution took place a day late. It was scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, but the Supreme Court only gave the green light in a narrow 5-4 decision Tuesday morning.
Purkey’s mental health issue arose near his 2003 trial and when, after the verdict, jurors had to decide whether to be put to death in the murder of 16-year-old Jennifer Long , in Kansas City, Missouri.
Prosecutors alleged that he raped and stabbed her, dismembered with a chainsaw, burned, and threw her ashes 200 miles away in a septic tank in Kansas.
Purkey was sentenced separately and sentenced to life in the death of 80-year-old Mary Ruth Bales of Kansas City, Kansas.
But the legal questions of whether he was mentally fit to stand trial or to be sentenced to death are different from the question of whether he is mentally fit enough now, in the hours before his scheduled execution, to be put on trial. dead.
Lawyers for Purkey say this is clearly not the case, claiming in recent documents that he suffers from the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Although various legal issues in the Purkey case have been hashed, reworked and settled by the courts for almost two decades, the issue of mental fitness for execution can only be addressed once the date has been set, according to the experts.