The federal prison system was preparing to conduct its first inmate execution in almost two decades Monday following a court ruling Sunday, but that is now on hold.
Daniel Lewis Lee, 47, was among a number of prisoners scheduled to be executed this week.
A court ruled Sunday that federal prison officials could resume executions following a 17-year hiatus, beginning with Lee’s on Monday at 4 p.m. at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana.
The prison is the same location where Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001.
But the 24-year road to his scheduled execution by lethal injection has been one with many twists and turns.
That road hit another barrier Monday morning when a federal judge ordered the executions halted.
D.C. District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered prison officials not to go forward with the executions and accused the government of taking shortcuts.
“The succession of last-minute rulings is the result of the Government’s decision to set short execution dates even as many claims, including those addressed here, were pending,” Chutkan wrote in a 22-page decision.
“The Government is entitled to choose dates, but the court cannot take short cuts in its obligations in order to accommodate those dates. As the Seventh Circuit wrote last week, ‘just because the death penalty is involved is no reason to take shortcuts — indeed, it is a reason not to do so,’” the judge said.
Lee’s execution was originally halted after his victims’ family members, who wanted a life sentence for the man, raised concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. The family sued to have the execution halted until after the pandemic.
Sunday’s ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the execution to go ahead despite objections from the family.
But Chutkan’s Monday morning decision will at least temporarily delay the execution of Lee, as well as the planned executions of Dustin Lee Honken on Wednesday and Wesley Ira Purkey on Friday.
7th Circuit court overturns stay of execution for Daniel Lewis Lee, paving the way for first federal execution in 17 years https://t.co/AuWZt1VFId
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 13, 2020
Fox News reported that legal appeals to Chutkan’s ruling were likely imminent.
Juan Garza was executed for a 1993 triple murder in Texas just a week after McVeigh was executed in June 2001.
The last person to be executed by a federal prison was Louis Jones on March 18, 2003.
Jones, a Gulf War veteran, was convicted of raping and killing a female soldier in 1995.
McVeigh, Garza and Jones all died by lethal injection at the Terre Haute facility.
It also cited a shortage of one drug used in lethal injections.
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