The decision to go ahead with the execution – the first by the Prisons Office since 2003 – caught the eye of civil rights groups and relatives of the victims of Lee, who had continued to try to arrest him, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Critics have argued that the government is creating a useless emergency that is fabricated for political gain.
A US district court judge suspended Lee’s execution on Monday because of death row inmates’ concerns over how executions should be carried out, and an appeals court confirmed, but the high court overturned it. The delay came after an appeals court on Sunday overturned an outlet that had been in place last week after relatives of the victims claimed they would be at high risk for the coronavirus if they had to travel to attend the execution.
Two more federal executions are slated for later this week, although one is awaiting a separate legal claim.
“The government has attempted to continue these executions despite many unanswered questions about the legality of its new execution protocol,” said Shawn Nolan, one of the lawyers for the men threatened with federal execution.
Lee’s execution, which was declared dead at 8:07 p.m. ET, came after a series of lawsuits that ended when the Supreme Court intervened Tuesday morning in a 5-4 decision and allowed him to move forward. .
US Attorney General William Barr announced in July that the Department of Justice would resume the executions of some of the federal death row inmates. Of the more than 2,000 death row inmates across the country, 62 have been sentenced by federal courts.
Barr said Justice has a duty to carry out court sentences, including the death penalty, and to provide a sense of closure to victims and those in the communities where the killings took place .
Co-respondent was sentenced to life
Relatives of those killed by Lee in 1996 strongly opposed the idea and long argued that Lee deserved a life sentence. They wanted to be present to counter any claim that the execution was being carried out on their behalf.
“For us, it’s about being there and saying,” It doesn’t happen on our behalf; we don’t want that, “said MP Monica Veillette.
They noted that Lee’s co-accused and renowned leader, Chevie Kehoe, were sentenced to life.
Kehoe, of Colville, Wash., Recruited Lee in 1995 to join his white supremacist organization, known as the Aryan People’s Republic. Two years later, they were arrested for the murder of arms dealer William Mueller, his wife Nancy, and his eight-year-old daughter Sarah Powell in Tilly, Arkansas, about 120 kilometers northwest of Little Rock.
Prosecutors at their 1999 trial said that Kehoe and Lee had stolen firearms and US $ 50,000 in cash from the Muellers as part of their plan to establish an exclusively white nation.
Prosecutors said Lee and Kehoe neutralized the Muellers and questioned Sarah about where they could find the money and ammunition. Then, they used stun guns on the victims, sealed trash bags with duct tape over their heads to suffocate them, stuck stones on their bodies and threw them in a nearby bayou.
Fewer executions, controversy over drugs used
There have been two state executions in the United States since the pandemic, forced closings across the country in mid-March – one in Texas and one in Missouri, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Alabama did one in early March.
Federal executions have been rare, and the government has only killed three accused since the reinstatement of the federal death penalty in 1988 – most recently in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for kidnapping, rape and the murder of a young woman in 1995. soldier.
In 2014, following problematic state execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice to conduct a comprehensive review of capital punishment and drug issues lethal injectables.
The Attorney General said last July that the Obama era review was completed, paving the way for the resumption of executions. It approved a new procedure for lethal injections that replaces the combination of three drugs previously used in federal executions with a drug, pentobarbital. This is similar to the procedure used in several states, including Georgia, Missouri and Texas, but not all.
The number of state executions has declined steadily since the last federal execution, according to data compiled by the Information Center on the Death Penalty. The states executed 22 people in 2019, including nine in Texas.
In 1999, the United States carried out 98 executions, the largest number since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the mid-1970s.